All day long people were singing at her. Smiling and singing. They tickled her belly, kissed her cheek, hugged her, and said two magic words that she didn’t even understand, “Happy Birthday!”
At first, my now-two-year-old reacted to all this attention with nothing more than a puzzled expression. By the afternoon of her second birthday, she smiled a sweetly confused grin when we scooped her up for birthday hugs and kisses. After dinner, she enjoyed the visit from her grandparents, but it wasn’t until I brought out the birthday cupcakes and we sang to her that she really began to understand that this special day was about her.
As soon as I lit the candle, she knew what to do. She started blowing at the air while I still stood across the room with her birthday cupcake in my hands. And then after she was covered in icing and Mickey Mouse-shaped sprinkles, I brought out wrapped presents and gift bags.
Her face said it all. “For me?” She unwrapped each gift and immediately played with it, read the book, put the puzzle pieces in place, and fed the baby doll.
My little one had been surprised by joy.
How I love that age when the simple fact of a birthday is enough to bring laughter and excitement. My older daughters now anticipate their big days all year long. Within a week of turning six, my eldest began telling people she was, “Almost seven.” I’ve heard all their big plans for birthday parties (despite being told that we’re skipping this year), and yet they plan anyway.
But for my baby girl, there was no anticipation. She had no idea we were planning for her joy. She was oblivious to me stashing presents in the closet. She had no clue I wrapped them during her nap the day before the big day. She did know that I made cupcakes (she has a sixth sense for finding cupcakes), but she didn’t see me decorate them or pop two candles onto the top of the one just for her.
During those final days before her birthday, her sisters and I were the excited ones. We looked forward to showering her with special treats and signs of love, even more because we knew she wouldn’t be expecting it.
Matthew 7:11 says, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
When we’re feeling broken, just emptied out or filled with fear . . . when we look ahead to an uncertain future, not even knowing what tomorrow will look like for us . . . when we’ve been attacked into the ground, pounded on by trials and Satan and circumstances and one bad event after another . . .
. . . then we remember that God is at work in invisible ways, even when we cannot see His hand, His activity, or His plans. He gives us the good gifts of salvation, His Holy Spirit, His peace, yes. But even more, He pours out on us surprises of joy, presents of grace in the unexpected places, an oasis in the midst of our wilderness, and a shooting star of hope across a midnight black expanse of our future.
Angela Thomas in her book Do You Know Who I Am? wrote:
“there is always a hidden work of God. When you think that God is distant or that maybe God has turned against you, I want you to remember that in the unseen God is plotting for your joy. He is planning the redemption of your brokenness.” Angela Thomas
Does it tickle you to think of God in heaven wrapping presents for you, sending down cupcakes with sprinkles just for you–when you least expect it and on a day that seems so ordinary or worse, filled with despair?
That’s what He did for Mary Magdalene, sitting at the tomb of her dead Savior, weeping for the loss of Him and the seeming loss of all He had promised. In her sorrow, she had traveled to the tomb while it was still dark. Perhaps she couldn’t sleep, so throwing back her blankets she had simply gotten up and started walking to the place of His burial.
But the stone was gone. The tomb empty. She called for the disciples and they searched through scraps of linen for any answer to the mystery of the missing Savior.
There was despair and confusion and hurt. There was anger and defensiveness about grave robbers and defilers. It was a day that had started out bad enough and was quickly getting worse by the second.
Mary didn’t see Jesus “plotting for her joy.” He had been at work in the hidden places, descending into hell and snatching the keys of death out of Satan’s hands. He had risen on that third day and exited the tomb already, but she hadn’t seen any of that.
While God planned her surprise, she: “stood outside the tomb crying” (John 20:11).
It’s not until she sees Jesus herself—not even then, not even when she talks with Him, but only when He calls her by name—that she realizes the victory before her, the amazing miracle of resurrection.
The angels asked her why she was crying. Jesus Himself asked the reason for her tears. She cried because the brokenness was all she knew and the evidence of loss and grief was overbearingly present. An empty tomb, grave clothes in a pile, Savior’s body gone. That’s what she saw.
Isn’t that what we sometimes see, too? We see here and now. Bills due. Relationships broken. Uncertainty about the next day and the next. Unanswered questions. Danger for our kids. Loss and mourning. Difficult ministry.
We see the grave.
God sees the resurrection.
He’s your Father who loves you, who knows how to give you good gifts and is wrapping presents for you, rejoicing “over you with singing” (Zeph. 3:17), and working “for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”” (Rom. 8:28).
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2011 Heather King