Before any birthday party or the annual mayhem of Christmas morning, I always prepare my children for what to say when they open a present. I tell them that no matter what they open — whether it is something they like or not — they are to smile and say, "Thank you," to the giver. No matter how old we are, it's always fun to receive a gift. However, as adults we know that though something is wrapped pretty on the outside, it might fail to deliver on the inside. While other gifts, like the ones our children might wrap for us, look wrinkled, bent, and worn, yet contain the sweetest and most precious handmade creations.
God gives many gifts to us as his adopted children. Our salvation is a gift of God's grace that we cherish and celebrate every day. It's never bitter. But salvation's not the only gift God gives us. He also graces us in our sanctification. It's a gift that is often not wrapped up with a pretty bow. Sometimes this gift is one that we treat like an unwanted Christmas sweater or a well-meaning fruitcake. We might not even recognize it is a gift at all.
Until we look closer.
Here are a few of those gifts that we might be prone to miss, but ought to cherish as much as any:
1. The Gift of Obstacles
"Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way. She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, 'I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.'" (Hosea 2:6–7)
God is talking here about his wayward Bride, Israel, who left her Husband in search of false lovers and counterfeit gods. As we know, God sent her away into captivity. It was an act of grace so that she would repent and return to her true love.
Like the Israelites, we also have wayward hearts. We too run after idols and false lovers. We pursue experiences, things, and temporary pleasures we think will satisfy our longings. We seek to find our meaning, hope, and joy in things created rather than in the Creator. Though we don't worship idols crafted of wood or stone, we do idolize money, family, work, success, comfort, and control. In grace, God often puts obstacles in our path to make our way difficult. They are not a form of punishment, but the discipline of a loving Father. These obstacles are intended to stop us, in love, so that we would repent and come back home to him.