Gospel Relevance

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Why I Always Feel Depressed on My Birthday

My birthday is tomorrow. I’ll be 26.

How do I feel? The same way I feel every year: grateful, but depressed.

Why I always feel depressed on my birthday

Photo Credit: stocksnap.io

Why?

I don’t know. I can’t quite figure it out.

It started around age 19.

It was the Fourth of July. I scheduled time to blow up fireworks with friends for the night. But before I did, I ran a couple of miles around my neighborhood in the early evening — it was light enough to run, but late enough to see fireworks.

And plenty of them did I see.

About one mile in, I looked up and saw an amazing set of fireworks. “Wow! That is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen,” I thought to myself.

You know what happened three seconds later?

They were gone.

A verse from James immediately struck my mind:

“What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time then vanishes” (James 4:14).

A mist.

Here for a little while, then gone.

And ever since that night, I have been highly conscience of the speed of life, and ever-so deliberate about not wasting it. Because that’s my biggest fear: wasting my life.

So my birthday, in my mind, is just a reminder that another year has passed by.

Maybe the worst part is the introspection.

“Shouldn’t I be published by now?”

“Shouldn’t I have a family?”

“Why does my resume looks so unimpressive?”

“Will I hear ‘well done good and faithful servant?'”

I think about these questions every year, and every year the list grows.

I went to a party recently. An older person from my church was there. He usually has good things to say, so I asked him a question about life.

“What’s been the hardest year of your life?,” I asked.

“30,” he said.

“Hmm. Intriguing. 30? Why 30?,” I replied.

I chuckled gently as I muttered my second question. I was trying not to show my anxiety, because I knew what he was about to say.

“Because I looked back on my life and realized I hadn’t accomplished much, and it made me depressed.”

Gulp.

He said exactly what I hope he wouldn’t.

I sighed. Then ended the conversation.

I’m too hard on myself, I know. I need to go back to the gospel, and remind myself that Jesus Christ did not waste his life, and his perfect record has been accredited to my account. So even If I do screw up, I’m still right with God the Father because of Jesus. And nothing can take that away.

That’s drilled in my mind, yes. Just need to get that down in my heart.

Maybe it won’t be that bad tomorrow after all?

We’ll see.

I’ll enjoy the cake, the cards, the comments. I’ll have fun with family and friends. My birthday will be fun. But in the back of my mind — or maybe even the front — will be C.T. Studd’s famous words, “Only one life, “Twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”

I’m enjoying my life. I just wish it would slow down a little.

About David Qaoud

David Qaoud (MDiv, Covenant Theological Seminary) is associate pastor of Bethesda Evangelical Church in St. Louis, Missouri, and founder of gospelrelevance.com. His work has appeared on The Gospel Coalition, For the Church, and Banner of Truth. He lives in St. Louis with his wife and son. Learn more.

9 Replies

  1. Hello David,
    First off, you look more mature than 26 in your picture! You have the wisdom of an older fellow already. For that you can be Very Grateful!
    When I was just a couple years older than you, the Lord gave me these words…part of some old writings, parallel to CT Studs words: “Time is earnest passing by, Death is earnest drawing nigh; Sinner, wilt thou trifling be? Time – Death – appeal to thee!”

    I felt I had so little hope of learning to pack wise discipleship or followership into my life, and I needed this deeper “call” from the Lord. “…wilt thou trifling be…”
    As for Stud’s words — I’m one that grew up with them on our household wall, as did Piper I believe (and probably many others of my day) — I later came to realize it’s not “only what’s done FOR Christ” that will last; but rather, only what’s done IN Him.” That diffuses the guilt (our energy, etc) and reminds us Who, Alone, has the power and the ability to do ALL that He has for us to accomplish in this life.
    The timing is HIs, the grace His, and the LIFE His.
    He will be faithful to you, as to me, no matter what.
    Blessings on your birthday!

    1. Very grateful for your encouragement. Love that CT Studd quote you shared. Haven’t heard of that one, but now I’ll instill that one in my head, too. Also, yes, Piper did grow up with the C.T. Studd quote I mentioned. I read about his experience in his book *Don’t Waste Your Life.* Great book, and one that inspired me to not waste my life.

      1. I read ‘Don’t Waste Your Life’ when I was at university – it made a big impact! I think I described it as a spiritual defibrillator.

  2. Happy birthday from across the pond! I hope you had a lovely day 🙂

    My housemate and I have been talking quite a lot about this kind of thing recently. She turned 30 last week, and I turn 30 next year. I haven’t achieved much according to worldly standards – I’m not married, I don’t have a family, I went to university but I have a part time admin job because of ill health. And from a shallow Christian perspective I haven’t fulfilled my potential – I had to step down from full-time student ministry because I was unwell, and my low energy means that currently I can’t use my skills in small group leading / student ministry etc. for the moment, and I can feel like I have so little to offer the body of Christ.

    But God is bigger than all that! These verses are super encouraging –

    “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)

    “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

    My life is not wasted! God created the things he wanted me to do in advance, and he knows what he’s doing. And in all the small moments of faithfulness and worship, my life most definitely matters – God multiplies my little offerings like he multiplied the bread and the fish. The things of the kingdom often look small:

    “He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.’ (Matthew 13:31-32)

    1. I guess having a holy ambition for our lives, means praying that God would use us for his eternal purposes, and then letting him set the pace and the scale. He knows best! It is after all his kingdom, not ours. 🙂

      1. Yes, it does. And thanks for your encouragement and for the Bible verses. Sounds like you’ve been through a lot and have learned to trust God amid many afflictions. Also great to see you’ve read Piper’s book. Such a good read!

        1. Nah, not many afflictions! Life has its tough moments for everyone. I’m genuinely super blessed 🙂

  3. Hany Sameh

    Happy belated birthday brother ..
    I opened this article for the title was so shocking to me !! THIS IS ME !!!
    You expressed it as if am talking exactly about my self ..
    Thank you for the honesty and the thoughts , that’s helping 🙂

    I wish you had a great day , I pray you would have many blessed years to come , in Christ alone.
    Greetings from Egypt!

    Hany+

    1. Hany! Thanks for reading. SO encouraged that you experience the same thing. It always feels better knowing you’re not the only one in times of pain. Birthday was okay. Grateful for another year and appreciate your prayers.