Birthdays

I recently celebrated my 26th birthday.

One of my favorite parts of my birthday is receiving a “Happy Birthday” text message from my friend, Michael, whom I haven’t seen in years.

Michael and I attended college together, and I haven’t seen him since 2015, but every June 17, without fail, I get a message that says, “Happy birthday, old friend.”

I’ve come to look forward to Michael’s annual birthday message more than any other because I know it’s coming. Even if I forget his birthday, which is just a week before mine, I still get a birthday text from him. Michael has always been a faithful friend.

I myself am not as faithful. I often rejoice when plans are canceled, and I might just be the most forgetful person I know. I forget where I put my keys, when my appointments are and what’s up next on my to-do list. And I’ll submit to you that our current pandemic hasn’t done my memory any favors.

In these past few months, it’s been really easy not to be faithful. We don’t have to show up to things in person, so it’s easy to be mentally, emotionally and spiritually absent as well.

Before the pandemic, I had a full schedule, but in the last three months, my schedule has completely emptied. All of the external structures I had built my life around came down with a deafening crash.

Once the dust settled on my calendar, I was faced with a decision: I could choose to let my schedule stay empty, or I could remain faithful to loving and serving Jesus and the people around me.

I could make phone calls to my family and friends, or I could sit on my couch and watch Netflix. I could still get up early and have quiet time with God, or I could sleep in. I could finally use the extra time I had at home to start exercising again, or I could take more naps.

Unfortunately, more often than not, I napped.

It would have been so easy to hole up in my apartment and hide from the world. And at first, that was all I wanted to do.

I was overwhelmed. I didn’t want to deal with everything going on out there. I didn’t want to switch gears. I didn’t want a “new normal.”

I wanted to disengage. I wanted to run away from it all.

Maybe this is true for you, too. Maybe when life started to change directions, you just wanted to opt out. Maybe you thought, “Wake me up when this is all over.”

Well, it’s been months, and it doesn’t look like things will be going back to the way they were any time soon. This is life as we now know it. And unfortunately, in life, there’s no “opt out” button.

When quarantine started, I started reading through the book of Genesis. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been studying the story of Jacob.

Jacob loved to run away from his problems. In Genesis 27, Jacob tricked his older brother Esau and father Isaac into giving him the birthright and blessing typically given to the firstborn son. Rather than face his brother after his deceitful act, Jacob fled to his uncle’s house.

But in spite of Jacob’s flight risk, God intervened. In Chapter 28, the Lord revealed Himself to Jacob in a dream and promised to bless and protect him and to give him a great number of descendants.

Jacob recognized God as the One, true God, promised to obey Him, and by Chapter 30, he had 12 sons who would go on to form the 12 tribes of Israel.

When Jacob fled, God was faithful.

And as Jacob spent more time following God, his faith grew. Before he left his father Isaac’s house, Jacob referred to God as “the Lord your God” (Genesis 27:20). He didn’t associate himself with God.

At the end of his life, when he blessed his son Joseph and Joseph’s sons, he said, “‘May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all harm—may he bless these boys’” (Genesis 48:15-16).

Jacob was faithful to God because he had seen God’s faithfulness time and time again.

So, when I was faced with the temptation to disengage, I had to look to God’s faithfulness. When I was a lost, bratty teenager, He didn’t give up on me. When I was broken and devastated, He never left my side. When I was at my lowest, He got down in my pit with me and pulled me out.

Even when I fail to be faithful, He always comes through.

Life right now is really hard. It’s uncertain and different. And it requires a great deal of faithfulness on our part. We won’t ever be perfectly faithful, and that’s OK. But that shouldn’t keep us from persevering in faith.

After all, God is in control, and His faithfulness endures forever.

Bailey Foxworth is assistant editor of The Southeast Outlook.