You probably react the same way I do. You know you do. Anytime I see a box with gift-wrapping on it, I automatically wonder two things: 1) what’s in it? and 2) is it for me? There’s something about a gift-wrapped package that peaks our interest because we know that generally whatever’s inside is a good thing, even though at the time we can’t see what it is.
I remember when the kids were growing up … heck, they’re still this way now as teenagers … on Christmas morning when they’d come downstairs and see all the presents under the tree their eyes would be as wide as saucers and their energy level would be in the “overload” zone. That’s after waking up at a ridiculously early time of the morning, as they still do to this day. Now remember, that reaction happened without their having a single idea of what was inside all those gift-wrapped items. They just saw the gift-wrapping and they knew something awesome was just waiting for them inside.
This was my reflection this week as I read through Luke 15 – 24, John 1 – 15. When I came across a passage that is pretty familiar in Luke 18:32-34 it struck a thought in me that is the basis for my sharing this week.
Then taking the twelve [disciples] aside, He said to them, “Listen carefully: we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that have been written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled and completed. He will be betrayed and handed over to the Gentiles (Roman authorities), and will be mocked and ridiculed and insulted and abused and spit on, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and on the third day He will rise [from the dead].” But the disciples understood none of these things [about the approaching death and resurrection of Jesus]. This statement was hidden from them, and they did not grasp the [meaning of the] things that were said [by Jesus].
Note something … “This statement was hidden from them, and they did not grasp the things that were said.”
Why was it hidden?
Sometimes God hides stuff from our understanding, not to be mean … like a bully who steals our ball on the playground. It can be because we’re not yet ready to receive and comprehend what He’s positioning to happen or what He knows will happen. I might be so He can reveal something to us about faithfulness, trust, dependence, reliance, etc. It could be to reveal to us something about Him.
Consider it somewhat of a gift that God desires to give us, but it’s gift-wrapped. There’s something great inside, but it’s covered up. I think the only difference between a material gift and the type of gift God gives us, say, in our circumstances is that a physical gift is familiar to us and we assume on sight that it’s a great thing inside, so much so that our initial reaction to it is to wonder if it’s ours.
When it comes to the gifts of God in our circumstances and challenges, we’re not quite as readily apt to look at it with anticipation and excitement. Rather, we almost try to flee from it for fear that something scary is inside. And while that’s possible, when fully-unwrapped, it’s always something awesome. Eventually.
So back to the thoughts above about how God gift-wraps our situations at times. Why is it that He hides matters from our understanding?
There are times when we’re simply not ready to understand things once God takes the gift-wrap off … when He allows us to see what He reveals. I know there are a variety of situations I’ve gone through in life, when I would not have been able to handle the full knowledge of a situation earlier. Either my maturity hadn’t grown enough … and in some ways I think that’s still the case today … or other things had to happen around me to add the proper context for the situation to fully make sense.
Sometimes God is gift-wrapping something for the purpose of allowing us to grow in faithfulness, reliance, fidelity, surrender, or something similar. It’s sort of analogous to when gifts are under the Christmas tree days or weeks in advance (like it happens most years at our house) and the present is almost better because we had to wait to open it. The process of waiting makes it seem or feel more valuable. Now, I recognize that seems frivolous or gratuitous, but with God it’s quite otherwise. On the one hand, just expressing faithfulness is important but in the waiting God can actually make our situation more valuable. Frankly, just our learning to be faithful and dependent on God is probably gift enough.
It’s also the case that in the gift-wrapping of our life’s circumstances, God can reveal something to us about Him. Most of the time I think He shows us that our circumstances are indeed a gift. That what we might see right now … maybe a poorly- or shoddily-wrapped dingy old box … can be opened to reveal the situational equivalent of gold and jewels. That is something ONLY God can do, and perhaps at times our circumstances, when unwrapped, are packaged to allow for that realization. To take a really valuable gift and hide it by putting it in cruddy wrapping. I’ve done that in the past for Helen … wrapped a really small, really nice gift in a package that is exactly the opposite. Not to be weird or mean-spirited, but rather as a different or creative way to demonstrate my love. Same with God.
Maybe we can all agree that God will hide our understanding of situations at times for a variety of valid and beneficial reasons. He’ll gift-wrap them. But I think we can also agree that in those situations we don’t always choose to see the gift-wrapping for what it is. Only the covering of a gift. God doesn’t give us situations for frivolous, purposeless, evil reasons. He just covers them with something that potentially looks different or delays the revelation of the true gift inside. The question is, do we see it that way? Like Christmas gifts, or presents wrapped in attractive wrapping, do we choose the circumstances God serves up with excitement and enthusiasm; with a feeling of wondering 1) what’s in it? and 2) is it for me? I pray each of us does more often.
Soli Deo gloria!