Are you a single believer of, shall we say, “a certain age?”

Even if you’re not, you’ve likely spent some melancholy times looking over the history of your life. Yet perhaps, for those of us who’ve been successful in our careers, or have an eclectic stable of reliable friends, or any other measure of worldly success, there’s still room for dissatisfaction, isn’t there? Like there’s something we’ve missed.

No matter our marital or economic status, we achievement-oriented Americans tend to dwell on those areas of our lives that we don’t consider as accomplished. If we’re never-married, or divorced, it’s easy to lament what might have been. If we’ve never been a parent, or we’re a single parent, we wonder what our children might have been like if things were different.

Turns out, these aren’t new, post-industrial, post-Christian, or Generation X-Y-Z ponderings. Boomers don’t have a corner on the “should have, would have, could have” market, either. Have you ever heard of the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow? He lived from 1807–1882, and his first wife died before he was 35.

In 1842, Longfellow wrote a famous poem about being “midway in the journey of our life,” and he even titled it with that phrase in Latin, Mezzo Cammin.

With how much of his poem can you relate?

Half of my life is gone, and I have let
  The years slip from me and have not fulfilled
  The aspiration of my youth, to build
  Some tower of song with lofty parapet.
Not indolence, nor pleasure, nor the fret
  Of restless passions that would not be stilled,
  But sorrow, and a care that almost killed,
  Kept me from what I may accomplish yet;
Though, half-way up the hill, I see the Past
  Lying beneath me with its sounds and sights,—
  A city in the twilight dim and vast,
With smoking roofs, soft bells, and gleaming lights,—
  And hear above me on the autumnal blast
  The cataract of Death far thundering from the heights.

It’s all there, isn’t it? The aspirations of our youth, and the grandeur we’d planned on accomplishing for ourselves, whether in business, or ministry, or non-profit charity, or teaching, or the performing arts, or parenthood, or being the ideal spouse.

Yet things happened along the way, didn’t they? Those things that, taken collectively, we call “life.”  Day by day, even if we denied ourselves pleasures so that we could realize greater things, and made conscious efforts to not let daily cares and worries press us down, somehow, where we are today isn’t where we planned on being at this point in our lives.

We’re halfway up life’s hill, and looking back, we think we see better things that could have been. From our current perspective, they remind us of how much less time we have to try and correct what we consider to be life’s disappointments.

Hmm. Pretty melancholy, isn’t it? These are narratives where frustrated nostalgia seduces us into assuming things could have been different had we worked harder at avoiding whatever scenarios have contributed to our current condition.

Meanwhile, we don’t have any proof of how different things might have been, do we? For those of us who believe in a sovereign God, we know He allows certain things to happen, even if they’re the direct result of our stubborn free will. None of us really knows the mechanics of how God’s sovereignty and our individual free will interact, and if we did, we wouldn’t need faith to trust God for His guidance and peace.