My four-year-old daughter tugs on my shirt as I stand at the sink washing dishes and says, “Mommy, I have a gift for you.” I turn to see her green eyes wide with delight, and in her chubby hand, rests a softball-sized item wrapped in white printer paper that has been decorated with crayon scribbles. At least ten pieces of Scotch tape holds the paper together. She covers her mouth with her other hand, suppressing giggles.
I’m curious about the wrapped item since she is notorious for wrapping items that she finds around the house or in the backyard to give to friends and family. When I grasp her gift, I realize that it is a rock.
She jumps from foot to foot. “Open it! Open it!” she exclaims.
When I peel back the paper, I see that the gift is one of her prized possessions, a rock that she has given a face and a name: Rocky. “Wow,” I smile and say, “Thank you, sweetheart.”
“You can have it for a while,” she explains, “But I have to have it back later.”
Solemnly I nod and say, “Of course. I understand. Rocky does belong with you.”
“Right,” she nods, “But you can have him for today. That’s my gift.”
Pain is like that. It’s the gift that we don’t think we need or want. It comes like big, ugly, wrapped rocks. But it does come through the hand of a loving Father who allows everything that comes to us to do us some good. And it’s usually temporary.
James, the brother of Jesus, said, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (James 1:2-4 MSG)