I have a very serious problem. I have the overwhelming desire to buy stuff for my kids. Whether it’s the adorable long sleeve shirt that I just know Sawyer needs (even though he has literally fifteen in his dresser) or the silly pretend cell phone in the check out line at Walmart that I know will make Liam happy for the ten minutes it will take to get home, I struggle to resist getting them things that will make them happy even if it’s fleetingly. Now, our budget, the boys’ overflowing playroom and the knowledge that I really will create little monsters if I let this compulsion win, helps me to resist more often than not. But I long to delight them by showering them with gifts.
Sometimes, when struggles seem to abound and blessings are harder to find, I forget that this desire in me is actually a reflection of God’s desire to delight us. Jesus says, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11). Jesus said it, so I know it’s true: God does give us good gifts. But I think it might be the adjective “good” that messes me up. I tend to wonder why God is saying no to my prayers, when I’m actually whining and begging for the cheap McDonald’s toy that will break before I get to the car. God is lovingly saying no, because he knows that there is something truly good waiting for me later (maybe a Little Critter book that I will want to read every night for three weeks straight) that will enhance my life instead of giving me fleeting, often frustrating, pleasure.
When I look for the good gifts in my life, I can see that they abound: I prayed fervently that Liam would be spared the awful stomach flu we all got last month, and miraculously he was, despite his unavoidably close proximity to the rest of us; I begged that God would cause the chemo to work quickly after Mom switched to a new regimen, and after just two chemo sessions her CA-125 count went down 800 points; we beseeched God to keep Everett safe from the unknown growth in my belly and found at my ultrasound that it had completely, “unexplainably” disappeared without a trace. When I look at these good gifts, I realize I’m actually quite spoiled.
But God’s gifts are not limited to those times when we ask for something in desperation. Ryan told me once that as he looked back at all the amazing ways God opened doors for him to get into college despite his low grades and lack of funds, Ryan realized that God paved the way just to lavish his love on him. God wasn’t trying to prove himself to Ryan or earn his love, because, as Ryan said, “I would have kept following him even if he hadn’t gotten me into college.” He was simply showing Ryan, in a profound way, that his good gifts abound.
1 John 3:1 says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us!” He often gives us good gifts just to delight us and show us his love. I can’t eat an Oreo (or a row of Oreos) without realizing this is true. The evidence is all around me that God truly loves to have us experience the good stuff: we don’t need all the colors of the sunset, and yet God designed the sun to go down in a flurry of artwork every evening; we don’t need flavor as the Israelites showed us by surviving on manna for forty years, and yet God gave us spices, chocolate, avocados and Thai food (my favorite!); I don’t need God to answer my prayers in order to keep believing in him and walking with him, and yet he answers them in wonderful ways all the time. It seems my desire to spoil my children actually pales in comparison to God’s ability to give his children what’s really good and lavish and delightful. Thank you Lord for your good gifts!