by contributing writer Kristen Webb
This is the season for gift giving.
But I have issues with gifts – especially the ones God gives me.
When God gives us gifts they can become tightly held possessions that we love more than God, which is not good. This is something I have been painfully aware of for most of my life; in fact, I am so afraid that I will become too attached to God’s gifts that I go the opposite way and don’t allow myself to enjoy God’s gifts at all. I thought this attitude was a super spiritual one, but lately I have been realizing that fear is never from God. It also occurred to me that this may be part of the reason I struggle with depression. But more importantly I realized lately that God wants me to enjoy the blessings He gives me.
James 1:17 says “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
I would be pretty offended if I gave my daughter something super awesome for her birthday and she did not want to receive it because she might enjoy it too much. There is a difference between idolizing the gifts God gives – which is wrong – and refusing to receive them at all.
So, how do I find balance, so fear doesn’t prevent me from enjoying all of God blessings?
One solution involves focusing on the giver not the gifts. I can do this by remembering to praise God for the gifts He gives instead of getting distracted by the gift alone. It is when I let pride and greed in and I forget about God that I am in danger of sinning; but, if I keep God first in my life, I can enjoy the gifts and not worry about making them too important. For instance, if I get a new sweater as a Christmas gift, it is good to praise God for it and enjoy getting to wear it. Being thankful to God for the gifts is a much better solution than not allowing myself to enjoy the gifts at all. Because the very act of trying to prevent myself from enjoying things causes a lot of despair and frustration. God wants me to be experiencing His joy and peace not despair!
Another way to make sure I don’t love the gifts more than God is to make sure I share the gifts. If I am looking for ways to bless others with my gifts then I don’t hold the gifts too tightly.
One of God’s blessings I have trouble truly enjoying is my horses. I feel guilty that I have them when others who want horses don’t have them. But I can share my horses with those people and God can use my horses to bless them. This prevents me from loving my horses more than God because I am willing to share them with whoever He asks me to. Sharing keeps the focus off the gift itself and puts it on God who we are serving with our gifts.
Sometimes I feel a vague feeling of guilt or anxiety when I go to enjoy some of my gifts. Is this because I am actually sinning or just Satan trying to rain on my parade, tempting me with false guilt? I have learned that I can examine my heart and my actions to determine if I am sinning and not assume if I feel guilty that I have done something wrong.
On a deeper level I think I might be afraid to enjoy God’s blessings because in the past some things I have been given have then been taken away and that hurt. I don’t know how to deal with the pain of loss so I just prevent myself from getting attached at all. For instance, in the past I have lost some close friends who have rejected me. This caused me to shut down parts of my heart. I have erected walls and limits on how happy I allow myself to feel, as my solution to the pain of loss. Satan has lied to me and told me that to avoid pain I need to not feel pleasure. But I am starting to see that this is a lie. God has other solutions for dealing with the pain of loss – much better solutions!
Without going into too much detail (that will be another blog) what are God’s solutions for the pain of loss?
They involve grieving, trusting, and expecting God to comfort and restore.
So I don’t need to prevent myself from enjoying the gifts. I can enjoy what God gives me and trust God to heal me and restore me if loss happens.
Jesus said in John 10:10 “the thief (Satan) comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).
Trusting God gives me the freedom to enjoy what He gives instead of letting Satan steal my joy.
Kristen Webb boards horses in the country with her husband and three daughters – one of whom has special needs. She has been part of the HMC congregation for almost eighteen years. You can find her over at her own blog, My Wild Ride Through The Door Of Faith.