Gifts. It’s always a big topic of every holiday season. We might be busy trying to buy things from a “wish list” of someone we know, or maybe we are thinking about what we ourselves might receive for Christmas. But here’s a question: Have you ever received an amazing gift you didn’t even know you wanted or would have ever imagined? Unexpected gifts often bring unexpected blessings, and yet when it comes to circumstances in our lives, we don’t seem to have that reaction.
As people of faith, we know that God sees the big picture and has a plan for our lives. We believe Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” We hold to Romans 8:28 – “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” We know what He has promised, but when things aren’t working like we think they should, we start looking at God like He is some kind of a spiritual grinch. It’s easy to lose sight of the truth of God’s goodness when we are buried in our perspective on what we think that “goodness” should be.
We want things to be good, prosperous, and somewhat easy, but we certainly don’t want and wouldn’t choose for ourselves things like pain, grief, loss, betrayal or being dismissed. When we endure those things, it’s hard to see them as gifts. Over the past year, I have been given many of those so-called “gifts,” and if I am being honest, I wasn’t too happy about it. I have complained, been discouraged and even distraught at times. I’ve definitely had moments of feeling like God is a grinch and that He just seems to want to take away everything good from us. That being said, I have also learned that sometimes when we lose things or go through difficult times, it really does start to change our perspective. It enables us, if we allow God to work, to see things differently. It allows us to grow, and that is a gift. I would dare say it is one of His greatest gifts to us – presenting us with situations that challenge us and force us to re-examine our lives, faith and service to Him and to others in whatever place we find ourselves. Sometimes He allows things to happen that force us to reach out to others, and in doing so we often find incredible people and incredible perspective. When we open ourselves up to what God is doing rather than trying to explain it, we find love, compassion, care, and genuine concern. We find His word speaking to us through channels we wouldn’t have previously considered, and all of these things we find coming from a source that we don’t expect. When we stand back and truly see the goodness of God and His mercy in allowing difficult circumstances into our lives, we can become thankful for it. It’s truly difficult for us to embrace our challenges, disappointments and discouragements or the people or things that cause them, but they truly are for our good.
We have a good Father who loves us and wants the best for us always. He has an amazing plan for our lives that includes our places of service. He knows what’s coming, and while we are freaking out trying to see ahead, He is standing there patting us on the shoulder whispering, “I am the one who goes before you. I’ll be with you, so don’t be afraid or dismayed. I’ll never leave you or forsake you.” (Deut. 31:8) He knows that no matter what we are going through, that there is a PLAN! Let that sink in for a moment. I’ve been talking about “unexpected gifts” but they are only unexpected to us and not to God! He is not only aware of what is happening, but He is working through all of it to bring us to the most amazing places in this life. Remember, we see the messy threads underneath the tapestry that look jumbled and ugly, but when you flip it over, you see the beautiful image and artwork that God saw (and designed) all along.
In all of my personal struggles this year, it has caused me to truly step back and search out what God is leading me to do rather than making plans of my own. He has been stirring things in my heart through some painful circumstances. Would I rather Him stir my heart by providing beautiful scenes in nature or other wonderful experiences? Of course I would! But by bringing me to a place where I became too tired to fight, I was finally able to start listening more closely to what HE wants, and not what I would choose for myself. If I had my way, I’d choose status quo far more often than not. I would choose to narrow my vision and settle for the “ok” when God wants me to soar into the amazing! Letting go of my own expectations of what should be, and dropping the weight that comes with pressing forward when God is telling me to be still, has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It has also been one of the most liberating! When I get out of the way and step back so that I can listen, it is amazing what I am able to hear.
So as we approach this season of celebration, I am thankful for unexpected gifts and unexpected paths. I am grateful that God doesn’t just know exactly what we need, but also knows the desires of our hearts that we ourselves haven’t even realized! I am thankful that He continually works in our lives so that we can change our perspective and come into alignment with HIS heart. When we trust that He is good and is always working ALL things for our good, then we begin to desire what He desires. We want what He wants instead of depending on our understanding of what is “good.” Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” He can do that because when we delight in HIS will and HIS plans, then it’s easy to give us the desires of our hearts because they are the same as His.
Unexpected gifts – things that weren’t even in the realm of our imagination or things we would have never wanted for ourselves, can truly be the greatest gifts we receive. I guess I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter what’s on my own “wish list” for God, because the gifts He has for me are truly “exceedingly, abundantly above all I could ask or think.” All I need to do is be willing to accept His gifts even when I don’t understand them completely. After all, when we think He is saying “no” to what we want, just remember that it’s because He has an even greater “yes.”
Merry Christmas and Blessing to you all!