Looking back to when I was younger, I can remember many special Christmas gifts I received… a new bike, a guitar, a camera, that sweater I’d had my eye on for months… I still have many of the presents that I’ve received over the years. But of all the gifts I’ve been given, I never saved the wrapping paper. I know some folks gingerly tear the paper and fold it neatly for another use. I’ve never understood that. In my mind, the paper is what is keeping me from getting to the real gift and I can’t wait to get it out of the way as quickly as possible. I suppose I’m still a kid in that regard (and I’m sure I always will be!)
As a Christian, however, I find it all too easy to be focused on the “paper” rather than the gifts that God gives. Several years ago, God gave me a gift… He gave me a very clear and personal understanding of His love and care for me. However, that gift was wrapped in the “paper” of a very long season of intense migraines and other severe physical pain and illness. I remember when He first made me aware of the gift of knowing He would never leave or forsake me. It was wrapped in the paper of a dear friend who did leave. Another time, God gave me the gift of truly experiencing His kindness and forgiveness. It was wrapped in the paper of loneliness, confusion, and hurt.
But just like my Christmas gifts are the real point, and not the snowman paper around the box, God uses trials in my life as the wrapping to give me gifts that I might not otherwise receive or appreciate. He has walked me through many times of darkness. Yet each time, His glory shines a little brighter. Through each trial, I have learned more of His character. In every season where my heart is prone to fear, I have been reminded yet again that He is with me.
Dear friend, God may send you some valuable gifts wrapped in unattractive paper. But do not worry about the wrappings, for you can be sure that inside He has hidden treasures of love, kindness, and wisdom. If we will simply take what He sends and trust Him for the blessings inside, we will learn the meaning of the secrets of His providence, even in times of darkenss. -A.B. Simpson
Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you! I have called you by name–you are Mine! When you go through deep waters and great trouble–I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty–you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression–you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!” Isaiah 43:1-3
[copyrighted, 2009, Emily Schankweiler]