December 25: Good Gifts

When I was a teenager, I wanted what any kid wants: to be left alone in my room with my music, posters, cosmetics, and beads. What I received one Christmas morning from my father was a big rusted second-hand toaster oven.

What kind of cruel-hearted father did I have? I asked for beauty and creativity, and he gave me... well... this Dad gift.

Thankfully his will was in tune with mine: I needed this hunk of junk to bake my polymer clay creations, which I could spend hours alone in my room crafting, with my music and posters, to my heart's content. It was exactly what I needed.

A gift like this could be misconstrued in so many ways. My dad’s a cheapskate. My parents don’t love me and have played a cruel trick on me. I need to start cooking for myself? How did I have a happy Christmas and not be offended by this gift? Simple – I communicated with my father. I showed him crafting magazines with adorable figurines and baubles that could be made with clay. We discussed the safety and economy of firing up the same large oven used for family meals to bake small trinkets made of chemicals. We may have even perused the thrift store together looking at our options (the brand new shiny ovens from the art catalogs were out of budget for a family of 5). Christmas morning, what it came down to was, I knew that my father loved me and would give me a good gift, even if it wasn’t the most beautiful thing I could show off to my friends.

Small self-guided creative projects built my art education. Sometimes despite my B.A. and art show credits I feel like I’m not a “real” artist, because I don’t have the resume typical of a successful one. Suppose I had demanded the status quo from early childhood, as society tends to tell us we need to do. Suppose I insisted my parents do the thing their child “deserved” (it’s my “right” to succeed!) and paid for proper art lessons in a master atelier, sacrificing their lives and budget (and other children) for my dreams and potential.

Would I have ever spoken to my Dad again after receiving a $5 second-hand toaster oven? Probably not.

Who would have been wrong? My parents, who had themselves and 2 other progeny to care for, or me, demanding my rights and proper opportunities? It should be obvious that my family’s basic needs came first, though in this day and age it seems you’re likely to go to prison if you don’t hand your children the moon on a silver platter (or an iPhone).

Tough Love

And [Jesus] said to them… “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Luke 11:9-13

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:28-32

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” James 1:17

The Bible is pretty clear: when we accept Christ, we are God’s children. God loves His children, and everything He leads them through works for their benefit. God gives good gifts. God is good, all the time.

When you are faced with something as horrible as Lyme-MSIDS or a chronic illness, you will go through the pain, the questions, and the doubt. Grief will shake your faith, and make you wonder how a good God could do this to you. That is a whole other journey, blog, and ministry in itself, but I’m here to be blunt: If you are a child of God, He loves you, unconditionally. God is working ALL things together for good. God is always good and always right. The whole Bible is always true. If you are having trouble reconciling these truths with your situation, rest assured, it is your life view that is skewed, not God’s Word. Sure, you are going to go through the grieving process. You are going to get angry, and upset, and doubt, and wrestle with God. That's normal. But parents don’t abandon their children for throwing a temper tantrum. And no matter how many times a child tries to run away from home when they don’t get their way, they can’t deny that they need their parents. So lay down your anger and return to your Father, knowing full well that He welcomes you back with open arms.

How do you get through this turmoil with your faith in tact? First, humility. Again, being blunt, the problem is always you and your humanity, not God. It’s not a personal failure on your part - it’s human nature, and we have already seen that God has healed and redeemed our Invisible Illness. Be honest: have you actively been asking, seeking, and knocking? Have you been communicating with your Father to know His will, have you been gleaning God’s wisdom from the Bible? Or do you just say a prayer at bedtime like a wish list to Santa Claus? Granted, daily meditation, reading, and prayer is difficult or even impossible in the worst of Lyme. Cry out with your spirit – He hears. Use some of your well time to stop researching Lyme treatments and instead fill your well with scripture and truth.

If you have been asking, seeking, knocking, and still feel like you've been given a rock to eat, or a snake to play with, remember: the problem is always your perspective. Instead of thinking the Bible and God's promises aren't true, maybe we need to re-evaluate our definition of gifts and blessings. If Jesus said He will give us good gifts, then He will. And if you despise His gifts, rest assured it is your soul that needs the re-wrapping, not His will.

Sometimes the answer is “wait.” “Be still and know that I am God.” The Israelites waited 40 years in the desert to enter the promised land. God did not break his promise, but He taught His people valuable lessons about faith and obedience in the down time. Perhaps your gift is down time, a waiting period, in which you learn to trust Him – the most valuable lesson and gift you could receive.

And sometimes we just won’t accept His gifts because they’re not the status quo we were expecting; they don’t look like the success stories and shiny ministries we’re used to. Maybe you’re too busy demanding art lessons to appreciate the toaster oven.

Maybe the stone God has given you is actually a full-service gym membership. It is a weight that will strengthen your physical, mental, and spiritual muscle.

Maybe the snake God has given you is a guardian, eating up the rats of greed, pride, and discontent that would otherwise infest your life.

Maybe the Lyme God has given us is the cure to busyness, self-centeredness, a lack of empathy, or poor health choices.

God gives His children good gifts. This is not the promise of tomorrow’s healing. This is the promise of today’s struggle. Unwrap your gifts and thank Him.

Read: 1 Peter 1:3-25

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