When my kiddos were little, we memorized James 1:17, and they still remember it. It has been a great help in reminding them, and me, that all gifts from God are good. Here is the whole passage relating to that verse (James 1:12-18, NLT):
God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.
So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.
The Gift of Bad Friendships
Good gifts? Moms always want to teach kids by “life application”, but God invented this concept. For better or worse, crummy friendships have been the best application of the message of “good gifts” for my kids —every good gift is from God, even if we don’t see the good right away. While looking for friends, my kiddos have encountered some pretty bad frenemies in their young lives. These experiences required us all to think really hard about what constitutes a gift.
Once, my daughter became friends with a bully, who didn’t bully her, but who was mean and nasty to other people. My shy and timid Gracie had to learn how to separate herself from this entanglement and the experience forever changed the way she looked at friendship. Gracie learned the value and importance of standing up for what was good and right, but at the time, it was a little painful to watch. She deeply appreciated blessing of her next friend, who was always loyal and kind to her.
My son had an enduring friendship with someone who often worked him over, physically, in the name of “boys will be boys.” What started out as fun, became a regular, humiliating, and painful experience. We tried a number of interventions and approaches. Many lessons were learned, but the relationship was difficult and prayers for change were not answered. That season is past us, but during all of it we clung to this Truth:
God is in the midst of every messy relationship.
He is always at work to grow, improve, and strengthen us.
We have encountered other “difficult people” in our lives, and the temptation is always there to complain against God and malign the people. Instead, we remember Romans 8:28 — God works for our good. And throughout these difficulties, my kids had to learn to let go of anger and grudges because they believed that God’s purpose was to grow them and teach them. They knew God was also at work in the lives of their friends.
We still pray for God to send “good friends”, but we also know that lovely relationships with like-minded friends are only one kind of gift. We try hard to remember that every relationship is a gift from God, in one way or another.
Oh Lord, please send kind and loyal Christian friends for my children, the kind who love to obey your Word. But if you don’t, please strengthen my children and protect them. Help them to endure and thrive when difficulties present themselves. Help them to always see the gift of relationship with You as the best friendship we have.