What kind of gift?

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When we were younger, my sister wanted a Wendy house for her birthday. My dad kept insisting that she was getting a tin of baked beans, much to her annoyance and his amusement.  Well, the day of her birthday came and she went downstairs. To her joy, there was the Wendy House ready assembled … and because my dad is a man of his word, even when it comes to a joke, inside was a tin of baked beans waiting for her.

At least she got the Wendy House first. When my niece was younger, I bought her a robot dog. They were all the rage at the time. I wrapped the dog separately from the batteries needed and not included. On the day she tore into the wrapping paper only to find batteries. There was much weeping and wailing and it was some time before we got her to settle enough to open the main present. Imagine what kind of uncle would buy his niece batteries for her birthday.

We know how to give good gifts to those we love. We know how to look after and care for small children, to feed them and clothe them.  In Matthew 7:9-10, Jesus is saying “look, if you sinful humans with all of your mess, selfishness and ability to harm can get the basics right, then how much more can God?”

Our heavenly father is good, perfect in all of his ways and loves us. We can trust him to supply our needs and to meet our true heart desire for happiness, joy and peace .

Now, this may seem a bit of a challenge to believe in the middle of a pandemic.  Here we are experiencing the frustration of lockdowns, isolation, masks, social distancing and other restrictions.  Is God really the good Father that we can rely on?

Well, it is helpful (though it may not initially seem that way) to remind ourselves again that what we describe as “the new normal” and as significant suffering for us, is in fact simply the old normal for many believers around the world and indeed has been throughout history.

Do we struggle with isolation, being restricted to our homes? Well it is worth remembering that many believers throughout history have been subject to house arrest and to prison.

Are we anxious about a pandemic? Well Christians have lived in the face of plague and pandemic for centuries. In the middle of COVID-19, we may easily forget that Ebola remains a constant threat in places like the DRC.

Do we find the restrictions when we go to church an intrusion on our liberties. Why must we wear face masks, why is there no provision for children, why are our names and contact details taken down as we arrive? Well welcome to the normal for many believers behind the iron curtain for much of the last century and in some communist states still to this day.

Yet, those believers who went through those things were still able to call God their good father and trust in him. Why? Well it seems that as they were able to depend less on less on the good things of this world, they found that it was God alone, and knowing him alone that gave true satisfaction, contentment, peace, joy.

Am I able to trust God, not just to provide for my physical needs and emotional well being now but to even more so provide for my true happiness with or without those things?

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