Joy and the Passage of Time

I recently came across a letter my parents had sent to relatives when I was a young child. One thing brought a smile to my face—their account of my desire for something all the other kids had—but the letter made me nostalgic and sad. It shone a spotlight on how quickly our lives go by. How can we face the passage of time without falling into depression?

Our biological age dramatically impacts how we view time. When I was a child, time crawled along at a snail’s pace, not picking up speed until I graduated from high school. Since then, its tempo has taken off like a rocket and hasn’t stopped accelerating with each passing year. I wish it would slow down!

Our focus also changes with age. Young people naturally look toward the future, while older generations tend to fixate on the past. There’s certainly a place for planning ahead or reminiscing about the days gone by, but if we’re not careful, we can fall into a trap that will make our lives miserable—by letting time dictate our joy.

When I read my parents’ letter, part of me wanted to go back to my childhood when the world was a simpler place, and Dad and Mom dispelled all my fears. But what benefit would I gain if I continually longed for my youth and lived in the past? None. Not only couldn’t it bring back my early years, but it would destroy my ability to enjoy the present.

Conversely, focusing too much on the future can lead to the attitude of “I’ll be happy when ….” The danger of such a mindset is that we tend to replace each completed goal with a new one—and our joy is always just out of reach. As a result, we can’t appreciate what we have or achieved because we’re constantly looking ahead to our next objective.

The only way to fully experience joy is to live in the present because that is where we are. Yes, fond memories or joyful expectations can warm our hearts, but by themselves, they can never fill us with happiness—unless we’re also enjoying the present. That’s why the Bible encourages us to be grateful and rejoice in every moment of the day, even in difficult times.

So, let’s not allow the past or the future to control our joy. We can cherish our yesterdays and look forward to our tomorrows, but let’s live in the now—where joy is found.

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