In a list of meaningful but “minor impressions,” beloved columnist/author, Joe Bayly, wrote the following for Saturday, July 28, 1962:
“Rode the merry-go-round tonight with happy David and worried Nathan, while Mary Lou looked on and waved each time we passed. Timmy kept up with us, running, for three times around”(1).
And then Joe included this familiar scripture:
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17–NIV, emphasis added).
That means everything good in this world comes from God—even a delightful ride on a merry-go-round.
Sometimes, however, the goodness of God’s gifts isn’t immediately recognizable.
Scripture offers a number of examples, such as Paul’s thorn in the flesh. The exact nature of the problem was never revealed, but we do know it was chronic and debilitating. Who would call that a good and perfect gift?
“At first I didn’t think of it as a gift,” he said.
Then God told him, “My grace is enough; it’s all you need.”
“Once I heard that,” Paul explained, “I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift.” (vs. 7-10, The Message).
I, for one, have never had to deal with a long-term thorn in the flesh. But difficult, shorter-term circumstances have turned into tremendous blessings. For example:
- A particularly exhausting week of teaching, family responsibilities, and other pressing matters was followed up by a weekend music retreat at church. How could I muster the energy to attend and complete a long must-do-by-Monday list? While visions of PJs and pillows danced in my head, I dragged myself to church. But through the funny and inspiring retreat leader, the uplifting music, and the invigorating camaraderie of music ministry friends, I left Friday evening highly rejuvenated, looking forward to more blessings come Saturday and Sunday.
- Our son was not accepted into his first choices of graduate schools, and we wondered what God was doing. Was Eric proceeding in the right direction? Those trying days, however, turned into lessons of trust and spiritual maturity for him, which he humbly took to heart. As for the university that did accept him? That’s where Eric met his wife.
- Into every life a few challenging people must fall, right? And with them often come discouragement, stress, and hurt. Where’s the blessing in all that? For starters, God uses such relationships to train us in turning our thoughts to the positive (Philippians 4:8), so we can experience renewal and peace. We also develop perseverance and maturity (James 1:2-4)—traits that lead to a calm and steady life anchored on Jesus.
God gives only good and perfect gifts. Sometimes they come as small but delightful surprises—like a perfect merry-go-round moment.
Sometimes they come wrapped inside trying circumstances.
But those are some of his best gifts–when negative is transformed into positive.
Because that’s downright miraculous.
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Have you ever received a good and perfect gift out of difficult circumstances? Tell us your story in the comments below.
(1) Joe Bayly, Out of My Mind: The Best of Joe Bayly, Zondervan, 1993, p. 41.
(Photo credit: www.elcivics.com, http://www.pinterest.com.)