Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17 ESV)
It’s been three years since we lost our baby girl, Anastasia—three years of making peace with the sovereignty of God. This year the anniversary of her death will come as we find ourselves rejoicing in the midst of a great and marvelous blessing: the birth of our daughter, Roseveare Marie.
In his goodness and compassion, our loving Father has chosen to give us the gift of a healthy, beautiful little girl—the first daughter we will have the privilege to raise up in the fear and admonition of our Lord. He has truly given us a good and perfect gift, a treasure that reflects his very image, a blessing through which his love is being expressed.
In times like these God’s goodness is obvious. His gifts seem to perfectly match the character of a God we can live with, a God whom we can tell others about with confidence and joy. “Look at what God has done! He has turned our mourning into rejoicing. He has given us a good and perfect gift!” These are the experiences we look forward to sharing with our unbelieving friends and relatives. We desperately want them to know the God who gives wonderful blessings to his children and who delights in their joy.
We love to send congratulatory greeting cards that quote James 1:17, rejoicing with the recipients in the God who is “the Father of lights and in whom their is no variation or shadow due to change.” We love to talk about the good gifts he gives.
But what if the good gift does not seem good to us? Would we send the same greeting card to a friend suffering from cancer? Would you have sent me that card during my miscarriages? Would I send one to you?
What do we have to offer to a world marred by the effects of sin—a world in which humanity experiences both joy and sorrow on a daily basis? Is God’s goodness revealed only in the joyful times, or is it also made manifest in the sorrowful times?
Over the last 9 months, during my healthy pregnancy, three of my friends experienced the deaths of their babies—one of them was a close family member. I was asked to pray for even more women whom I do not know, who were going through the painful loss of their own children. While I was rejoicing and hoping in the new life growing within me, they were weeping and mourning the loss of their precious babies. Was I the only one of us basking in the goodness of God? Was I the only one enjoying his good and perfect gifts?
To understand what is meant by “good and perfect gifts” we must back up a tiny bit in James’ letter. We must read this verse within its intended context. If we do so, we will see that this promise is given smack dab within a letter addressing the suffering and persecution of its readers, not their joyful celebration of the more obvious blessings.
In fact, just a few short paragraphs earlier, James encourages his audience—and us—to “count it all joy… when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2-3 ESV)
These are not typically words that go together. We don’t usually put them in the same sentence and truly, there is often very little joy experienced in the midst of trials.
Unless we can see the unseen. Unless we can train ourselves to trust our Heavenly Father. Unless we can “count” it all joy when happiness seems the furthest emotion away from us. We are not asked to feel that the trial is a joy, at least not initially. No, the feeling of joy comes after the “counting” it a joy.
For joy in trials comes as we shelter ourselves against the rock of our salvation as the storms break against his scourged back.
According to James, we must “count” trials a joy because we believe that every good and perfect gift is from our Heavenly Father, and even the trials are good and perfect gifts because our Father cannot give anything that is evil. There is no variation in his nature, no shifting shadow. We can trust his goodness to us, even in the midst of pain and sorrow.
Because even these terrible things can produce good things. For the testing of our faith produces steadfastness, and steadfastness’ full effect—its purpose in the hands of our Redeemer—is that we may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:4 ESV)
Therefore, we can have confidence that in times of rejoicing, and in times of suffering, our God is with us. He is at work, blessing and loving. He is perfecting us and calling us into deeper communion with him. He is not blessing some of his children and withholding good from others, but rather in his perfect wisdom he is blessing all his purchased bride with the individual attention his love demands.
I must rejoice in this time of happiness because it brings glory to our Savior, just as my friends who are suffering must simultaneously cling to him with all their might because it brings glory to the Savior. His love and compassion covers us all.
Where are you right now? Are you praising him in your joy? Are you praising him for your pain? Know that he is with you in both, dear sisters. Count it all joy.
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11 ESV)