“You’ve been given a great gift, George: A chance to see what the world would be like without you.” This compelling quote is from the classic movie, It’s A Wonderful Life. Each year around Christmas, one of the networks will broadcast this timeless gem, and I am compelled to watch it each time as if I’ve never seen it before. Of all the aspects of the movie that I love, I think the irresistible force over me is simply the acting of Jimmy Stewart, who plays George Bailey. It is he who is given the gift, even as he considers taking his own life after he tells God, “I’m at the end of my rope.” But to convince him that his rope is much longer and better than he thinks, George is granted the opportunity to see how different the lives of his loved ones, and even the fate of his entire town, would have been had he not lived his “ordinary” life.
The wife of a friend was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Being in the vicinity of her late 40’s to early 50’s, she was understandably surprised to learn of her condition at such a young age. Healthy and active and a follower of Christ, she nevertheless fell victim to this dreadful disease. But in speaking with her dear confidant and mentor, she was told that she had been given a great gift. She had been granted by God the opportunity to live out her faith in the midst of dealing with terrible news. How she processed this unwelcomed setback, and the ways in which she chose to deal with the prognosis and treatment, would speak to many people as to the strength of her faith and the depth of her reliance on God.
Having just experienced the joys of Christmas, we have been reminded that gifts come in all shapes and sizes. They are wrapped in the most unique ways, and they sometimes mean much more, or much less, than was ever expected or intended. But nobody boxed up a batch of cancer and put it under the tree. Nor did anyone look in their stocking and then have to spend hours wrestling with the condition that they no longer existed. But such as these can be used by God to bring the greatest gift He offers, and that is to experience Him in a deep and loving relationship. God doesn’t pass out cancer like we pass out the gifts on Christmas morning. But He does offer the gift of knowing Him deeper and displaying that for the world to see.
The Bible says that every good and perfect gift comes down from God, and also that He makes all things work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. So, you hold in your hands, or have within your body, or are experiencing in your relationships, something that will be labeled. Will it be part of a gift that moves you closer to the God who loves you, who can use every situation as a means to express that love? Or will it be called something much worse, and be for you a means to step away from your heavenly Father? Your heart certainly longs for the first.