Christmas time is a wonderful time of the year for most. But for other's it brings sadness, insecurity, depression and even doubt. So many Christmases this is where I've been, because of hard times and inconvenient times. With construction this is usually the time of year jobs start dwindling and income slows to a trickle. So many times I've wanted to get my kids something, anything, but just didn't have anything to give. Or at least that is what I used to think!
As a Christian I’m online with a resource even more valuable than Amazon.com when it comes to finding the perfect gift. God has an abundance of gifts to give us. His riches are beyond comprehension. Plus, the price is right for any budget because the gifts He gives, he gives freely. Yep, you heard me right—no money down, no cash payments EVER.
I’ll be honestly, some of those gifts we don't really want and some of those gifts we covet. For example, I love to sing, and always wished God would have blessed me with a beautiful and consistent musical talent. I mean, I can carry a tune, but I'm no rock star. I used to pray God would give me that gift, but that wasn’t in His plan.
Instead He chose instead to give me other gifts, gifts that some people don't necessarily see as valuable, like my gift with computers. It took me a long time to see the value of that gift and how I could use it for His glory.
There are other less desirable gifts, but one God sometimes chooses to give us. What about the gift of poverty? I mean, Matthew 19:24 says, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Translation—people who are rich and have everything they need are a lot less apt to turn to God and a lot more apt to worship riches.
America is a rich country. Let’s face it, most Americans will never know poverty the way foreign countries do. But these rough times have brought me a taste. I know what it is to have creditors call constantly. I know what it feels like to have to choose between paying the rent or buying food for my kids. I know what it feels like to not be able to give my kids new clothes, to be ashamed because all they have to wear at times has been too small or worn out or totally out of fashion. I know what it is like to only get my hair cut twice a year and then only be able to afford to go to the Cosmetology school. I know what it’s like to not be able to go to the doctor when I’m hurting or how much it hurts to see my husband not go to the dentist until he’s so sick he can’t even think because he has an abscess and no insurance. I know what it’s like to watch my dog suffer and slowly die because I can’t afford a vet. I know what it is like to have to live with my in-laws because we couldn't afford to put a roof over our heads. I know what it is like to have no Christmas presents under the tree because there was no money to buy them.
There was a time this led to sorry, shame, guilt, anger, doubt, depression and fear, but something changed. I finally decided to open the gifts God had given me. They were almost invisible, yet readily available, and I didn’t even have to wait for Christmas morning!
Last year I saw one of those gifts be unwrapped by my daughter, and that gift reminded me of how one gift leads to another. That gift was . . .
The gift of COMPASSION. My daughter knew last year she wasn't going to get much for Christmas. This hadn't been the first hard Christmas for her, so she knew how hard that would be on Cordel. She could have griped and complained or made a long wish list thinking only of herself. That would have lead her to disappointment, though. Instead she made her brother a gift so he would have something to open on Christmas morning--an amazing crocheted horse with a medieval blanket. The gift of compassion opens up your world and allows you to see people as Christ sees them. It allows you to feel their pain, which allows you to minister to them in ways beyond your comprehension. You start to see the value in others, and desire more for relationships than material things. Then, just like my daughter having compassion and empathy for my son, this gift almost always leads to . . .
The gift of GIVING. I think of the story in the Bible when the woman gave two coins and that was all she had. Why did she do that? It's the same reason that I can't pass a Salvation Army bell without putting some change in, even if it's just a nickel. It's because that gift does mean something. Those nickels, dimes and quarters add up. Someone who has been cold or hungry or needy is much more apt to understand how important those small gifts are. If we all gave in our abundance there would be no need for those bells and red buckets, because we have enough globally for everyone to be taken care of. In hard times, if you don't let your faith die or your heart harden, then you will become a giver even in times of hardship. And giving brings on . . .
The gift of JOY. I can't help but think of the scene in the Grinch Whole Stole Christmas when his cold hard heart was softened but the unconditional joy of the Whos. Joy is a gift Christ will give in hardship, but so many people choose to reject it. Joy is contagious! It's hard to be sad or discontent around joyful people. Joy helps sustain you through hard times and brings on . . .
The gifts of HOPE and EDURANCE. “ Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Phil 3:12-14 I used to be so depressed and felt so hopeless all of the time. If things were going good, I was great. If they got hard, I'd start griping and complaining. I had no endurance. Looking back most of those trials were incredibly temporary. Then there was the whole spec house thing, which lasted over four years. One night I found myself, right before the spec house foreclosed, sitting in the bathtub in the master bedroom of the spec house wondering how God could allow us to spend four years and invest so much of our time and money into something only to have us lose it all. But then God opened my eyes to all I had gained! That spec house brought Phil and I closer than ever. We worked together as a couple and as a family. It brought Stephen home and transplanted him back into our family after some hard times he'd gone through (which is probably why he helped, remember that whole compassion gift!). Endurance is a great gift. It strengthens our faith and develops . . .
The gift of PATIENCE. Now, this is a gift I used to pray for, but didn’t like what getting it meant. The thought did cross my mind that the years of hardship I had to endure were due to the prayer of a 14-year-old girl for patience. You see, I just wanted the gift for Christmas that year, right then and there, just to fall in my lap. But God’s gifts sometimes are wrapped up in box after box, layer after layer. You’ve had those gifts, haven’t you? You rip off the paper and open the box only to find another and another and wonder if there really is anything in the box at all??? But the gift in that set up is usually small but valuable, something you will cherish. That is how it is with patience. Once you have it, appreciate how much easier life is with it. Of course, I always seem just a box or two away from it still! Patience is important for preparing for the next gift . .
The gift of TRUST. Trust is one of the most precious gifts God has developed in me. I’ve learned to trust Him in hard times. Trust allows you to be free to tell God how you really feel. It lets you cry and laugh and open your heart to those deep dark places so God can shine His Light in. Trust is an awesome gift, but is often returned for doubt when hard times return. Such a shame, because trust leads to . . .
The gift of UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. This gift is the hardest for wounded people to accept and for people in abundance to appreciate. It’s so beyond our comprehension that we look at it and think it must be meant for someone else. Nope, you’re wrong. This gift is for you and me and anyone who asks for it.
Sometimes I forget I have these gifts, especially when I look under our very bare Christmas tree. I place my precious gifts in a box somewhere that I think I’ll be able to find easily when I need them next, but I forget they are so close when times of trouble come rushing in.
I think this year I’ll pull them all out and place them on the walls of my house so I don’t forget about them. The greatest part about these gifts is that they are to be shared. I don’t have to feel guilty because I have them, because God has plenty of spiritual gifts to go around for all of us. My prayer this year is that He’ll remind you of all the gifts He’s giving you and bless you with many, many more!
For information about Celebrate Recovery contact Rodney at 479-659-3679 or firstname.lastname@example.org