What to Do If You’re Dreading Valentine’s Day …

 

Valentine+

 

My first husband said he didn’t love me the day before Valentine’s Day. Two weeks later, he moved to another state.

I will never forget that day, try as I might. That cold rainy day in February is forever etched in my mind. It was the day my old life ended, and a new unwanted life began.

At first I couldn’t process what was happening. It didn’t seem real. Our children had thought we were happy. Outsiders had thought we were happy. I naively had thought we were happy too. I assumed we’d make it through this.

But as the details became apparent and weeks turned into months, I felt increasingly hopeless. After months of mourning, I was forced to embrace my new normal.

God helped me pull my life back together, but I was left with a deep ache. The first year after he left, I dreaded Valentine’s Day for weeks beforehand. What would I do? How would I spend the day? Could I move past my painful memories?

I made it through, though I emptied several boxes of Kleenex. Valentine’s Day reminded me of what I didn’t have. What I never had. And what I’d lost.

I don’t think I’m alone in that feeling. I’ve had numerous friends, married and single, who find Valentine’s Day depressing. It’s a day just to make it through and hope that February 15 brings something happier.

But is that the way to best make it through? Do we stay in bed, feel sorry for ourselves and hope the day passes quickly? As Christians, how should we view Valentine’s Day?

History records several saints named Valentine, each with a unique story, but all of them focusing on self-sacrificing love. None of their stories involved romantic love. All of these saints were motivated out of love for God and for others.

So perhaps this day, I too should be motivated out of love for God and for others. Maybe I need to let go of unpleasant memories. Maybe I need to see it as a day to serve others and sacrifice for them. Maybe I need to recognize that I don’t need someone to make much of me. God already does that as he delights in his children.

God delights in us; we don’t need people to celebrate us. We don’t need people to make much of us. And we don’t need people to satisfy our hearts. They can’t. Single or married, loved or unloved, Jesus is the only one who can meet our deepest needs and satisfy our unmet longings. No earthly relationship can carry that weight.

Perhaps Valentine’s Day should be about loving others with the love of Christ, without expecting anything in return. In considering what that looks like, my mind is drawn back to a story I read in college, from the book Improving Your Serve by Chuck Swindoll:

 

Little Chad was a shy quiet young fella. One day he came home and told his mother he’d like to make a valentine for everyone in his class. Her heart sank. She thought, I wish he wouldn’t do that! because she had watched the children when they walked home from school. Her Chad was always behind them. They laughed and hung on to each other and talked to each other. But Chad was never included. Nevertheless, she decided she would go along with her son. So she purchased the paper and glue and crayons. For three whole weeks, night after night, Chad painstakingly made thirty-five valentines.

Valentine’s Day dawned, and Chad was beside himself with excitement! He carefully stacked them up, put them in a bag, and bolted out the door. His mom decided to bake him his favorite cookies and serve them up warm and nice with a cool glass of milk when he came home from school. She just knew he would be disappointed … maybe that would ease the pain a little. It hurt her to think that he wouldn’t get many valentines-maybe none at all.

That afternoon she had the cookies and milk on the table. When she heard the children outside she looked out the window. Sure enough here they came, laughing and having the best time. And, as always, there was Chad in the rear. He walked a little faster than usual. She fully expected him to burst into tears as soon as he got inside. His arms were empty, she noticed, and when the door opened she choked back the tears.

“Mommy has some warm cookies and milk for you.”

But he hardly heard her words. He just marched right on by, his face aglow, and all he could say was:

“Not a one … not a one.” Her heart sank.

And then he added, “I didn’t forget a one, not a single one!”

 

I didn’t forget a one, not a single one.

Chad didn’t even notice whether he received valentines or not. He was more concerned with giving than receiving. His focus was on other people.

That’s where my focus should be. I need to take my eyes off myself on Valentine’s Day. I need to stop thinking about what I’m missing and pay attention to the needs around me.

Jesus tells us to love one another as he has loved us (John 15:12), to do good expecting nothing in return (Luke 6:35) and that it is more blessed to give than receive. (Acts 20:35) Paul tells us to consider others better than ourselves (Phil 2:4) and to outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10). Peter says to bless those who have hurt us (1 Peter 3:9). John exhorts us to lay down our lives for others (1 John 3:16) and to love in truth by our actions (1 John 3:18).

Valentine’s Day should be a day to make much of others.

This year it coincides with Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. How appropriate. We celebrate and commemorate the one who loved us extravagantly and gave his life for us for 40 days beginning with Valentine’s Day.

So what should you do if you’re dreading Valentine’s Day?

Revel in God’s love for you and set apart time to spend with him. Remember that his love is far deeper and more lasting than any human love.

And then try serving others, giving without expecting anything in return. This year, I am writing a letter to two people who have had an impact on my life. I also want to intentionally look out for people who might be struggling this day. I’m sure there are many if I stop to think about it. I want to deliberately forge new habits that make me focus on others this day and not myself.

Would you join me? Do you have any ideas on how to celebrate Valentine’s Day and make much of others? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

 

  • February 2, 2018 - 6:14 am

    Pat - EVERYDAY is Valentine’s DayReplyCancel

  • February 2, 2018 - 7:24 am

    Sassy pritchard - Thank you so much Vaneetha! What an encouragement to focus on others this Valentine’s Day. I want to turn the sorrow of my divorce into loving others and not focusing on what I don’t have. I want to show Jesus love.ReplyCancel

    • February 2, 2018 - 4:58 pm

      Vaneetha - Thanks for writing, Sassy. I’m looking forward to focusing my energy outward as well!ReplyCancel

  • February 2, 2018 - 8:34 am

    Karen - Just what I needed to read!! And I’ve thought of a few friends and family who could use some extra loving this Valentine’s Day. Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • February 2, 2018 - 4:58 pm

      Vaneetha - So glad it was helpful, Karen. Thanks for writing!ReplyCancel

  • February 2, 2018 - 1:40 pm

    John B - Great stuff and something on my mind way more than I would like because of my singleness. I’ll have to think through what I can do for others. In the meantime, I think about the following as a way to let go of this idol I’ve created and held onto for too long. According to Mark 8:34, God is calling me to:
    1. Deny myself -> Put aside my idol of marriage
    2. Take up my cross -> Embrace my singleness and call on God to “tell me great and unsearchable things I do not know” Jer 33:3
    3. Follow Jesus -> Deepen my relationship with Jesus and grow in my ability to love othersReplyCancel

    • February 2, 2018 - 5:01 pm

      Vaneetha - So appreciate your sharing what the Lord is calling you to, John. Great advice for everyone to put aside idols, embrace where God has placed us and seek to deepen our walk with Jesus.ReplyCancel

  • February 4, 2018 - 12:36 am

    Grace - Thank you for being so real about your life as you are being confirmed to His image.
    My hubby and I live in a new community, two years coming up. We’ve had two get to know our neighbor parties. This year I have invited all the women who came before to a post valentine tea party in our home. I am planning to celebrate each woman who comes with giving a NT Bible explaining the gospel with the meaning of her name included, possible a biblical meaning.ReplyCancel

    • February 4, 2018 - 5:35 pm

      Vaneetha - What a great idea, Grace! Thanks for sharing it.ReplyCancel

  • February 5, 2018 - 4:54 am

    Mike R - A miracle before our eyes–God turns even evil into good. While I cannot begin to imagine the pain you experienced, I can marvel at how God has used that experience–here you are inspiring your readers to reach out. I like the idea of actively searching for those who might be in need. I think of some in my church who live particularly lonely lives. A senior man who never married and has no relatives. A woman long ago left by her former husband and whose only child has died. Thank you for turning my heart towards them.ReplyCancel

    • February 5, 2018 - 8:22 am

      Vaneetha - Thanks Mike for that reminder. Love your ideas. We don’t have to look far to see people who are lonely.ReplyCancel

  • February 5, 2018 - 7:24 am

    Lisa - Valentine’s day should remind us of the ultimate love story of Christ and his Bride which began with His sacrifice.ReplyCancel

    • February 5, 2018 - 8:23 am

      Vaneetha - Amen! It will be an especially sweet reminder this year as it falls on Ash Wednesday.ReplyCancel

  • February 6, 2018 - 2:55 am

    Josiane - Vaneetha, as I read your testimony, the tears rolled down my cheeks. Tears of loss, loss of my life in the past, a past in which I wore a mask because I wish everyone would find me nice and friendly and strong. But everything is broken when my husband deceived me. And now we, my husband and I, have started a new life, it is a difficult and hard road, but God wants me to really live and that my real self, reflecting Him in this world, will be revealed. Little by little, day after day, some days I feel so good and other days I cry … thank you, you show me that I am not allone struggling and you show me that God does not leave me alone.these sentences say a lot:….So perhaps this day, I too should be motivated out of love for God and for others. Maybe I need to let go of unpleasant memories. Maybe I need to see it as a day to serve others and sacrifice for them. Maybe I need to recognize that I don’t need someone to make much of me. God already does that as he delights in his children.ReplyCancel

    • February 12, 2018 - 10:32 am

      Vaneetha - I’m so sorry for all you’ve been through. Letting go of our past life can be so very hard. I’m so thankful this post was helpful to you. Praying as i write this that Valentine’s Day would hold joy for you as you love others as Christ loves us.ReplyCancel

  • February 11, 2018 - 11:25 pm

    Susan Davies - My church senior group is having a dinner Friday night but they’re calling it a Presidents Day celebration. If they called it a Valentines Day celebration some single people would stay home so I think they made a wise choice. Most holidays come with expectations that make many people feel inadequate.ReplyCancel

    • February 12, 2018 - 10:33 am

      Vaneetha - What a great idea, Susan. And I agree that taking the word “Valentine” out makes it more inclusive. Thanks for writing.ReplyCancel

  • February 12, 2018 - 10:41 pm

    Jessie - Thank you, Vaneetha. I come back to your writing to be reminded that God is good, even when life is hard and the road seems long. I’m thankful that He is using you to tell his story of grace and redemption and His great love for us! This Valentines Day I’ll be holding on to these reminders you’ve shared.ReplyCancel

  • February 13, 2018 - 3:03 am

    JulieB - Vaneetha- I have read your blog for quite some time now and appreciate so many of your thoughts.

    Thanks for the thought that this year Ash Wednesday coincides with Valentines Day. What a beautiful reminder of the true meaning of Love.ReplyCancel

    • February 13, 2018 - 2:28 pm

      Vaneetha - I agree about Valentines Day and Ash Wednesday- I love the way you said: “What a beautiful reminder of the true meaning of Love.” Amen.ReplyCancel

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