Have you ever been searching for the absolutely perfect gift for someone you love? You thought about it perhaps for months prior to the actual day you would give it. You drove from store to store or from mall to mall in order to find the exact item you just knew would bring a Cheshire cat smile to that loved one’s face. Then, you find it. You find it! You are beyond excited and do not even think twice about pulling out the money to pay for it, regardless of how much it costs! You are almost skipping out to your car as you carefully place the beloved item in the trunk and drive home, the entire drive spent thinking about how to keep your loved one from finding out this special surprise before the intended day. You decide to leave it in the car until a time comes when you can safely bring it inside and conceal its identity with the also absolutely perfect wrapping paper you bought. “This is going to be so much fun!” you think to yourself. You can hardly contain your excitement! Once the gift is safely concealed in the wrapping paper, perhaps adorned with a bow, you know the surprise cannot be spoiled. Now, if you’re like me, you start baiting the recipient. “I found THE perfect gift for you and I can’t wait to give it to you!” you say at dinner that night. Upon going to bed, you say again, “I’m just SO excited to give you your gift! I know you’re going to love it!” Of course this peaks your loved one’s curiosity and perhaps they start asking questions, trying to get enough information to guess what the surprise might be. That just makes you more giddy in anticipation of the day when you give that special gift. When that day finally arrives, all your searching, all your plotting, and all your baiting pay off in a big way. The gift is given, the bow is taken off and placed on the top of the dog’s head, the paper is torn off, the box is opened, and that smile appears just as you knew it would! Indeed, it was the perfect gift!
I’m sure most everyone has been on at least one side of the above scenario. Perhaps you were the gift recipient. You may still remember, years later, what that gift was and the occasion for which it was given. Maybe you were the gift giver, the one who brainstormed for months and hunted every store and drove all over not only your town but every town within a twenty-five mile radius to buy the perfect gift. I suspect many of us have played both roles at one point. Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, or, if you’re me, just because I felt like it are all occasions to celebrate with gifts. When choosing gifts for people who hold a special place in the heart, I don’t believe anyone tries to think of a gift that the recipient would not want. We don’t walk into the Dollar Tree and grab the first thing we see and think, “This will do.” There is care and love that goes into gift giving. We desire the recipient of our gift to be happy. Ultimately, it is their happiness with the gift that seals our satisfaction in giving it. If we have carefully planned and thought, and we know well the person on the receiving end, ultimately the gift will be considered good.
Why all the talk about gifts?
This week has been a difficult one for me. Some weeks I have more good days than bad, and other weeks the opposite is true. This week definitely fell into the latter category. Most days found me struggling to even get out of bed. Once that task was accomplished, not much else was. For the majority of the days, I just did not feel well. One advantage–if you want to call it that–of being unable to do much is the time to read, an activity that I not only thoroughly enjoy, but one that is also do-able on bad days. I often spend time in the Psalms on such days, but this week I decided to continue some work I had started in the book of James. I opened my Bible and began reading in Chapter 1 in order to refresh my memory. I have read this chapter several times, but this time, a particular verse struck me. James 1:17 read, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Since gift giving is my love language, I paused and read that verse again.
I thought about gifts and how important they are. I thought about the gifts God has given me: a husband who loves me in sickness and in health, four beautiful (all be it often stress inducing) children, a home, vehicles to drive, color, trees for shade in summer and beauty in fall, snow, rain, stars, fireflies…the list could go on and on. As I stopped and thought about these gifts from God, I silently thanked Him for them. He could have made our world black and white. He chose to give us a spectrum of color to beautify our days. He could have made us all the same. He chose to make us different, with different talents. He could have made all men or all women. He chose to create both, allowing us the privilege of marrying and reproducing. But something kept whispering in my mind, and that whisper was a bit unsettling.
“Thank God for the gift of MS.”
What? Did I really just hear that?
“Thank God for the gift of MS.”
Internally, I argued with myself–or perhaps with God. How could I thank God for something that has made my life somewhat miserable? How could I thank God that I’m no longer able to keep the house like I used to be able to and like my husband deserves it to be? How could I thank God that sometimes I can’t drive the vehicle he provided because dizziness would make it quite unsafe to do so? How could I thank God for the fact that I am unable to even walk the dog right now?
“I’m sorry, God. I just don’t know if I can consider this disease a gift.”
Yet, as I continued to think about and argue the issue within myself, I had to admit one thing–the Bible is very clear that God is good and His gifts are good. The verse in James says every gift. Not some. Not most. Not just the ones I like, but every gift, all gifts, are good because they are from God. I then thought of the verse in Matthew where Jesus was preaching the Sermon on the Mount and He asked the people who would give their son a stone if he asked for bread? When my children were younger and asked for new shoes because their current pair was hurting, I did not give them a rock. If they needed shoes, we went and bought shoes. Jesus then said to the people, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matt. 7:11 ESV)
I know I didn’t ask God for MS. I didn’t ask Him for depression. I didn’t ask Him for the financial troubles that have plagued our marriage. On the other hand, I didn’t ask Him for sunsets either. I didn’t ask Him for seasons or any of the other thousands of gifts He has given me. How can I take the good things, the happy things, and proclaim that they are from God, but I take the painful things, the uncomfortable things, and not say they are from God? I can’t. Every good and perfect give is from above and if God is inherently good, then His gifts are good as well. It is my own finiteness–my humanness–that stops me from always seeing how something that is painful or uncomfortable is, in reality, a good gift from God my Father. I am working on learning to thank Him for those gifts not asked for, those sometimes unpleasant surprises that He carefully plans for me. I must thank Him, though, for it is always the right thing to say “Thank you” to someone who gives a gift.
God has carefully planned, He knows us well, so ultimately the gift is good.