top of page

Disappointments Come In All Sizes

By Barbara Rainey

First posted on

Six weeks before the big day, my daughter Laura began searching for the perfect invitations. After making her choice and addressing the envelopes, the invitations were on their way to friends and family, scheduled to arrive the requisite one month ahead.

Then she began planning the details: searching for and finding the just-right plates and napkins; ordering a cake and matching iced cookies from her friend; buying balloons, party favors and other little fun touches.

Baby Emma Cate was about to arrive at her first birthday.

First birthdays are always an important occasion for the parents. But this one was especially so because Emma Cate was a Covid-baby, born during lockdowns and masks and greeted upon her arrival with waves, kisses and tears of joy through hospital room windows—no visitors allowed!

Dennis and I were looking forward to this happy first birthday. We were going a few days early to help with preparations and to enjoy a long weekend with Laura, Josh, Lincoln and Emma Cate. But on Tuesday morning Dennis learned he had tested positive for Covid. Even though he was vaccinated.

We began calculating dates of potential exposure, hoping we still might be able to arrive in time for the party on Saturday.

On Wednesday big brother Lincoln woke up with a fever. Better by afternoon, but worse overnight. On Thursday the pediatrician diagnosed him with the highly contagious hand-foot-mouth disease. And that afternoon the birthday girl started running a fever; on Friday she was miserable. She wouldn’t eat, she cried and whimpered, and she needed to be held all day long.

The cake and cookies arrived as planned but Laura had to cancel the party. It seemed Emma Cate’s first birthday would be reminiscent of her birth day with only drive-by waves and congratulatory wishes by text.

I texted Laura a lot that week. Though I tried to encourage her it was a week of interruptions, disappointments, adjustments, and repeated surrenders to the ways of a sovereign God who cannot be comprehended. All of us were discouraged by the barrage of setbacks to our plans full of hope and excitement.

On Friday I texted: “I’m so sad we can’t come. Another disappointment in God moment for us.”

And then I typed a thought I’d never had before: “I wonder if God gets tired of His children being disappointed in Him all the time when everything He does for us as our Father is in love. I would.”

In the grand scope of the story God is writing with our lives, a cancelled birthday party is a very small thing. But in that moment of our lives, and in the greater context of the life-altering world-wide pandemic, it was not only sad but bewildering and perplexing.

Why was I disappointed?

The root word of disappoint is appoint or appointment. We’d all marked our calendars, appointing this weekend for the celebration of Emma Cate’s first birthday. Disappoint therefore means a cancelled appointment or more fitting for our emotions we were all disinvited by a virus. And we weren’t happy about it.

Being uninvited or cancelled is always disappointing. But it’s much more than that; it’s the God factor that makes hard circumstances sometimes much more painful and it was true with the birthday party.

My Father in heaven loves me and knows me perfectly. He knew how important it was for us to be at the birthday party. I felt I needed a dose of those two little ones who bring so much joy and delight. They are like vitamins for my soul. God loves Laura too and He was fully aware how much she was looking forward to celebrating the life He had given in baby Emma Cate.

As a Christian I have come to know a few things are true about God. First, He is all powerful; as Jeremiah 32:17 tells us: “Nothing is too hard for You.” Even the simple healing of a virus.

Second, He has promised “no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). This birthday celebration seemed a good thing to me, so why withhold it?

Third, I know God leads and guides His children. Isaiah 58:11 says, “And the Lord will guide you continually …” If I were God I would have guided us and my grandchildren away from those germs for the delight of giving Emma Cate’s mom and dad a wonderful celebration of her first year of life.