June 27, 2017

Birthday Lessons

Okay, I’ll admit it. I complained. I whined. I had a self-pity party.

You see, my birthday was coming up, and I thought it was going to be miserable. I thought I was going to be stuck in the house by myself with nothing to do all day. I thought I wouldn’t be able to do anything fun with my husband because he had school all day (and all week). I thought the stormy weather that was predicted would make it even more dismal. I thought I wouldn’t have any presents to open that day. I thought I was going to have to make my own ‘birthday supper’ because we couldn’t afford to go out to eat.

And so I cried and I whined and felt sorry for myself, instead of presenting the problem to God and disciplining my emotions to be content with whatever God wanted that day to be like. I focused on the negative possibilities instead of on the facts. I ignored all the many things I had to be thankful for. For instance –

Fact: I would at least see my husband in the morning and at night, unlike last year when he was away all week.

Fact: I was healthy enough to celebrate another birthday. There was a time almost four years ago when nobody was sure that would happen… but they still keep on coming and I’m still here to enjoy them.

Fact: I have many friends and family members who love me; just hearing (or reading) the very words ‘happy birthday’ means that they care enough to make the effort to say something to make my day a little more special.

Fact: I have what I need to live – a roof over my head, clothes on my back, food on my table – and I should be therewith content.

Fact: I have a God who loves me and sent His Son to die in my place. And that should be enough to cure any disappointment I feel!

Instead of focusing on all those facts, all those reasons to be thankful, here I was feeling sorry for myself and worrying about the imagined possibilities of everything that might happen to make the day less of a happy birthday. I was focused on my self and my wants, on my perceived problems, rather than on God and His provision and His love for me. I was stubbornly floundering in the waves of ‘what-ifs’ rather than trusting Him to do whatever was best for me, rather than holding fast to His unchanging goodness and delighting in Him alone.

But, we “do not know what a day may bring” (Proverbs 27:1). God in His infinite goodness chose to be merciful to me, even amidst my stubborn self-pity. The very next day, we received some income that would allow us to go out for my birthday supper. The day before my birthday, one of my birthday presents arrived in the mail. I received several cards from friends and family, and myriads of wishes online from so many friends it overwhelmed me. My parents surprised me by having fresh colorful tulips delivered during my ‘lonely day at home.’ I even had a birthday cake, since my wonderful husband got up early to bake one for me (what a surprise that was to wake up to!). The weather was still gloomy, but the day before had held beautiful spring-like weather and I had been able to spend several hours doing yard work – so I was more than happy to cozy up inside for the day and watch the drizzle from my living room. And yes, my husband still had to be at school all day so we couldn’t do much for ‘fun’ on the actual day – but he ended up having the very next day completely free (a highly unusual occurrence) so we could have plenty of time together to do something fun to celebrate.

I should have simply trusted God. I know He is good all the time. I know He loves me, that I am His child – and if an earthly father gives good things to his children, how much exceedingly more does our heavenly Father! I know Him and I know His works in the past. So why did I worry needlessly? Why did turn my gaze away from Him and onto my weak human self? I guess that’s just it, I’m human. But what a reminder the next time I’m tempted to worry about something that just might happen (or not). What a reminder for the next time I start feeling sorry for myself!

Truly, in God we have all we need. For as the writer of Hebrews admonishes us, we are to “be content with what [we] have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).