“Reverend, I need to talk to both you and your wife about something very important. Will you follow me into surgical?”
I meekly followed the surgeon to the room where my wife was being prepared for her mastectomy, but with every step came rising dread that I could barely stifle. The past six months of our lives had taught me to always expect the worst: first our miscarriage, then a break-in at our house, then Carol’s cancer diagnosis, the temporary loss of our health insurance, and the discovery that her cancer had started to spread. What was it this time? Had the cancer spread? What terrible news did God have in store for us?
We entered the prep room, where my wife lay on a surgical gurney. Our doctor paused for a moment and began cautiously. “So … we took a routine blood test for your wife, something we always do. When I got the results back, I saw that her hormone levels were a little strange, so we had to run some additional tests.”
She paused again and then plunged on. “I just got those results back right now. Mrs. Chin, you are pregnant. Now at this point we have to make some important decisions. First off, you are going to have this baby, right?”
Carol and I looked at each other for the briefest of moments and immediately agreed. “Yes, of course. Of course, we are going to keep this baby.”
That became our final decision. No matter what happened, we were going to keep this baby. It was a conviction that would be sorely tested in the coming months, and would greatly complicate the process of Carol’s treatment and recovery. But it was the turning point of this terribly dark season.
Our surgeon nodded, placed her hands on both our shoulders and said, “I don’t know what God is up to, but He’s up to something. That’s for sure!”
After everything we had endured, we felt certain that this child was a gift from God. I think our decision was in no small way prompted by the Holy Spirit. But sometimes, you don’t even have to know what a gift is to know that it is good. All you have to know is who gave it to you.
In Luke 2, when Jesus is presented at the temple, a devout old man named Simeon rises to meet Him. Simeon immediately recognizes that Jesus is nothing less than the Messiah and praises God that he was able to lay eyes on the Christ, even going so far as to say that now he can die in peace. Jesus performed no miracle at that time and probably seemed like an ordinary baby.
I think the Holy Spirit brought Simeon to Jesus and revealed Jesus’ true identity to him. What a reminder that we need the Spirit to see Jesus clearly!
But Simeon also had been a devout and righteous man his entire life. Being a man who had cultivated an intimate relationship with God, he knows that God is both good and loving, and that whomever God sent to Israel would be good and loving as well. Simeon didn’t need to see Jesus do anything amazing to know He was amazing. Because Simeon trusted the Giver, he was able to see the Gift for what He truly was.
Very rarely will we be able to grasp the true worth of what God gives us. More often than not, we look at those gifts with confusion, even horror, wondering why God has given us something that differs so starkly from what we had asked Him for.
When we can’t comprehend what God is doing, we have to take our eyes off the gift and focus instead on the Giver. We should remember what it says in James 1:17, that every good and perfect gift comes from our heavenly Father, and what Jesus tells us, that our heavenly Father waits for His wayward children to return with His richest gifts in hand. If we can remember these truths, it is far easier to look at the gift in our lap and recognize it for its true and priceless worth, even though it may be wrapped in dirty rags or born in a manger.
Or if you find out about it right before going in for major surgery.
PETER CHIN is the lead pastor of Rainier Avenue Free Methodist Church in Seattle. This article is a condensed excerpt from his new book, “Blindsided by God,” which can be ordered at fmchr.ch/bbgchin.1