“Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed” (Jeremiah 20:14).
Last week, I had a very strange experience on my birthday. Searching for a text of Scripture in the morning, as is not uncommon, my Bible fell open to Jeremiah chapter twenty; and since this is a favorite passage of my father, who happened to be leaving for home later that morning, I decided to read it. How odd then to find on my birthday Jeremiah cursing the day of his birth, due to the “labour and sorrow” that consumed his days with shame! Was this a portent of things to come in my life? The thought lingered a while as I entered the day.
Filled with people, and ending with two little league games, the day eventually quieted down again with me back at my desk, perusing some articles written by James P. Boyce, founder of Southern Seminary. One entry from December 1848 caught my eye: “I Blot Out a Day.” At his desk, he would often mark the passing of time by striking through the day on his calendar. But did he really blot it out? The day may have passed, but its history could not be erased nor its influence effaced. In a sense, the day remained. Then, to my surprise, the article ended with a reference to the “dreadful prayer” of Job that his birthday might perish! I looked at the clock. It was four minutes to midnight! Here I was, opening and closing my birthday with two Old Testament prayers that the day of birth be cursed! How strange! How odd! What did it mean?
Interestingly, Boyce did not agree with Job. Instead of perishing, he wrote, “Let the day live.” Let the day be improved that it may live in supplying happy memories, in giving spiritual strength to work, and in bearing a good witness at the Day of Judgment. This hopeful thought led my mind back to a birthday card that I had read an hour earlier, having this passage from the apostle Paul:
“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed;
we are perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not forsaken;
cast down, but not destroyed;
always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus,
that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).
Now that Christ is risen, there is no need to curse any day, or to wish to have never been born. Boyce was right. Rather than curse one’s birthday, as the saints before Christ had done, we who live in the light of the resurrection can say, “Let the day live!” and look for the manifestation of the life of Christ in the dying of the day! Instead of our guilty sentence of sin, we can say, “But now the righteousness of God…is manifested” (Romans 3:21). Instead of our lifeless slavery to sin, we can say, “But God…hath quickened us together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5). Instead of weakness being a burden too great to bear, we can say “…but not…but not…but not” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
We live in a different era than Jeremiah and Job. We live in the era of Christ. Therefore, blessed be my birthday, and blessed be the Savior who gives me Life!
Source: Thomas J. Nettles, ed., Stray Recollections, Short Articles and Public Orations of James P. Boyce (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2009), 32-33.