I had the chance to make a quick trip back to Ohio over New Years and have a late Christmas with the family. One of my favorite parts of Christmas is watching a person’s reaction as they open a gift they have been given. It was all going well until my niece, Reagan, opened up the gift I got for her after she had opened gifts from my siblings and parents. You must know she is a 2-year-old and I now understand why this stage is known as the “terrible two’s.” I did ask my sister if I had permission to share this story as an illustration, so I am free to do so :) By the way, I still love my niece, she is just a little pill sometimes and if I am honest, I see a lot of my stubborn, hard-head in her. I think we have a lot in common, especially after you hear this story.
Anyways, I had not known what to get Reagan for Christmas (I am not the best gift-giver) so I asked my sister what she liked. Reagan insisted on having this Frozen nightlight but her mom and dad didn’t want to get it for her at the time and gave me the idea to get her that for Christmas, so I did. She asked for this gift a couple days before she received it so I was really excited to see her reaction when she opened it. It didn’t go as I thought it would because she threw an absolute FIT when she saw it and threw it across the room, hitting my mother in the face with it. She screamed and said she already had something like it and wanted to continue playing with her brother’s toy.
Two things occurred to me in that little instance. 1) It brought back memories to how I threw fits as a kid and could totally relate to her. For some reason people don’t believe me but I had major anger problems as a child (it’s only by God’s grace he’s begun to wring that out of me haha). 2) It instantly brought an analogy that came to my mind showing me how we are with God often times. It raised the question, “Why do we settle for less?” Why do we go on chasing what we think will bring us joy, when there is so much more offered to us in Christ? Why do we set the bar to comfort and familiarity, when God wants to stretch us by trusting in his provision to bring us joy and bring him glory? Why do we covet the gifts that have been given to others and want them more than what has been placed before us? I was so humbled in that moment because I stopped and thought to myself, “That is me.” That is the physical me as a child who was known for temper tantrums and that is the me in a metaphorical sense even now–wanting to settle for something that won’t truly bring joy.
I am the child who looks at a gift from God and throws it away because I want what I want and how I want it. I think I may have used this quote in a blog post before but it is so good that I can use it at least twice! C.S Lewis said it well: “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
What would happen if we started to align ourselves with God’s Word and simply ask for His will? I am not saying don’t ask for something specific, something you desire–ask for your heart’s desire, but know that God will only give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything he knows, as Tim Keller says. God doesn’t withhold any good thing from those who love him, whether we think he does or not. We ask for things out of ignorance, not knowing what is best because we are not God. Or we ask for something that is actually a good gift (like the example of my niece in a sense) and later we say “no thanks, I don’t need or want that anymore. I’ll settle over here for what I think is best in this moment.” If I, who am sinful and evil, know how to give my niece a good gift, how much more will my Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!?
Luke 11:11-13: “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Notice that he doesn’t give us everything we want. He gives us His Spirit and that is sufficient but we struggle to believe that it is sufficient. God’s divine power (through His Spirit) “has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3). I often doubt God and think I need more than His Spirit for contentment, for life, for finding joy. Or I fail to trust that what he is going to give me is actually for my good. But that is a lie to believe because he is a perfect, loving Father who is all-knowing and sovereign, unlike myself. So who am I to say I know what is best for me? I would be silly to say that and while I would never admit that with words, I tend to believe I know what is best, just like my niece.
We can chase after what we think will fulfill us, be it a spouse, a job, money, safety, a particular place to live, friendships, you name it. But until we see that the ultimate gift found in Christ is what actually fulfills the longing, we will be discontent in those pursuits. We will be like my niece, rejecting ultimate joy before us, while thinking we have all we need. God is too loving to keep his children content with lesser loves. It is my hope that I can communicate that to my niece, that she will taste and see that the Lord is good and that his love endures forever. It is also my hope that you and I see the beauty of the gospel–that God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all (Romans 8:32). That is a true gift worth receiving and when my heart doesn’t want it, I will plead with the Lord to make me want to treasure it and treasure Christ. How will God not also with Christ graciously give us all things? Let us approach Him boldly and ask and receive what he alone can give and be for us–an eternal hope and Savior.
For His glory,