This coming Monday (August 26th) will be my birthday; not just any birthday, either. On Monday I turn 35. That’s a big, milestone-sounding number, right? It’s not as ho-hum as something like 31 or 28 or 42. 35 has a nice, round-feel to it.

I remember when I turned thirty. That was the big one. That was the queen mother of all *dun dun dunnnnnn* (scary dramatic music) birthdays. It’s funny because all throughout my 20’s I never though entering my thirties would be a big deal. After all, I’m usually very low key about my birthdays. All I ever want is a chocolate cake with white icing, some kind of grossly unhealthy dinner (fried chicken, chick-fil-a nuggets, a massive steak, something), and usually a new pair of shoes.

As I approached thirty-years old, however, I felt myself getting more and more anxious and contemplative. I used to tease my wife that I would work hard, write all my commentaries, and then drop dead at 40.

She made me stop saying that.

Now that I’m approaching the half-way point of my thirties, you might think I’ve settled down and am okay with the prospect of growing older. And yet, I’m actually kind of…nervous about what the rest of my life brings.

I’ve been thinking about what I’ve actually accomplished (if anything) in my first thirty–five years and whether or not I will accomplish anything meaningful for the rest of my life. That kind of deep, meditative stuff keeps a man up at night.

It reminds me of the time that Isaiah once confronted the cowardly king of Judah, Ahaz. He too was extremely anxious–not about a birthday, but about a possible invasion by Israel and Syria. The prophet spoke with the king with words of reassurance, and though the king was not receptive, Isaiah’s words are still good ones to remember when we are battling anxiety for whatever reason:

Then said the LORD unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shearjashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field;
And say unto him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah.
(Isaiah 7:3-4)

Isaiah tells Ahaz to “take heed” (pay attention to God), “be quiet” (settle down), “fear not” (stop letting negativity control your thoughts), “be not fainthearted” (stop assuming the worst).

Why? Because the threats against him are just “smoking firebrands” (literally, “dying embers”). A dying ember gives off a lot of smoke, but there’s not much fire left any more. It looks like a threat from a distance, but up close you realize it’s all bark and no bite.

We all have problems, and they are all big “to us.” But they are not–any of them–TOO big for God.

Pay attention to Him, settle down and trust Him, be positive, and know that He will guide you through your trial. When He does, you’ll look back on your problem and realize it wasn’t the forest fire it appeared to be; it was just a dying ember.

I still want that chocolate cake, though.

~ Matthew