God, the Good Father

Sunset near the fishing pier at Holden Beach, North Carolina

Sunset near the fishing pier at Holden Beach, North Carolina

I like to think of God as a good Father giving His children good gifts (see Luke 11:13).  It’s only one part of His nature, but it’s a very Biblical one.  Paul said, “Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “My Father!” (Galatians 4:6) and again in Romans, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba!  Father!”” (8:15).  Even Jesus, when He gave an example of prayer, told us to call on “Our Father” (Matthew 6:9).

Linkins Lake Trail, White River National Forest, Colorado

Linkins Lake Trail, White River National Forest, Colorado

It’s hard to imagine a father who doesn’t like to give his children good gifts.  I’ve been acquainted with quite a few fathers (including my own!) over the years, and all of them seemed to have a soft spot for giving their children things that they know their children will like – everything from a hug or a kind word to more extravagant gifts like special trips, a hat with their favorite brand on it, or Lego sets.

My dad and I in Badlands National Park, South Dakota

My dad and I in Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Like these good earthly fathers, God gives us good gifts.  And like good fathers on earth, God wants us to enjoy His good gifts.  I can’t imagine an earthly father enjoying it if, when he gave his children a playset, his children saw it and then lifted their eyes to their dad and said, “Good father, I thank you for such an extravagant playset.  It is truly wonderful, and I thank you very much.”  And then they sat down on the grass and looked in awe at the playset.  In fact, they looked at the playset every afternoon after school.

Playground equipment behind the Mount Trumbull Schoolhouse in Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument, Arizona

Playground equipment behind the Mount Trumbull Schoolhouse in Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument, Arizona

The above illustration is ludicrous.  No child would ever do such a thing!  Instead, while they might thank their dad for the playset, they would run and play on it.  They would enjoy the playset as the wonderful gift that it is.  And their dad would be happy because they are not only grateful for the gift, but they are using it and enjoying it.

Swinging on a convenient porch swing in the Red Hills Desert Garden, Utah

Swinging on a convenient porch swing in the Red Hills Desert Garden, Utah

Sometimes we see God’s good gifts as “too good” to be used.  So instead of using them and enjoying them the way that God intended, we thank Him profusely and then never touch the good things that He gave us for our enjoyment.

Playing with mud in the Great Salt Lake, Utah

Playing with mud in the Great Salt Lake, Utah

It’s a tragic reality for many Christians.  And while it can be played out in any of many ways, but let’s take a look at how it could happen in the wilderness.  Let’s say I hike a long trail to a view of a beautiful alpine valley with towering snowcapped peaks above.  I can stand in awe and thank God for His beautiful creation.  And that’s a great thing to do.  But He also made it for us to enjoy.  So if I’m not getting enjoyment, myself, out of the beauty, as well as gratefulness, then I’m squandering the good gift that God is giving me in this wonderful view.

Views from Sahale Arm in North Cascades National Park, Washington

Views from Sahale Arm in North Cascades National Park, Washington

Gifts are given to be enjoyed.  God’s gifts are given to us for us to use them for Him, yes, but also for us to enjoy.  In using the gifts that God gives us, we find true fulfillment and joy – because while they may be more practical on the surface, they were also given to be enjoyed.