When I was growing up, my family didn't have money for much more than necessities. Modest presents appeared on holidays, but we never received gifts without a reason.
I got my first bicycle one late spring day, a day I'll always remember – not just because I loved the bike (I did), but because it came with no obligation on my parents' part and no expectation on mine.
I was given so much more than a shiny blue two-wheeler that day. This surprise gift brought with it a sweet, sure sense of love that has long outlasted the bike. It was an unforgettable feeling.
For a long time, I looked for ways to recapture the heart-gladdening effect of knowing I'm loved without condition or limit. The hunt for a person, circumstance, or object never satisfied this longing. It was tempting to accept the common view that good is intermittent and unreliable, and that we'll be happiest if our expectations are low.
Then a Bible verse caught my attention. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above," states the book of James, "and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (1:17).
Pondering these words, I realized that I already knew the source of the joy and confidence I was seeking. It was the love of my divine Parent, God.
God is the ultimate source of no-strings-attached love. And His gifts to us are spiritual in nature because He is Spirit, dependable because He is Principle. The Bible describes many of these gifts, including dominion, eternal life, salvation, and grace.
This doesn't mean that we can't enjoy things like bicycles. God's giving doesn't take the form of material objects, but understanding His boundless goodness meets specific needs of all kinds.
Here's an example. A prayerful friend of mine who is a musician and a prayerful man took exception to the widespread expectation that artists by nature struggle financially. He reasoned that God, the provider of "every good gift," delights in giving good to all His children – including performers. He didn't accept the theory that musicians needed to "pay their dues" in order to qualify for God's beneficence. And he pondered Jesus' words: "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).
Mary Baker Eddy, founder of this newspaper, explains how spiritual good appears tangibly in our lives: "God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," p. 307).
My friend began to experience this abundance of good ideas. One led him to take a job overseeing several self-storage sites, a position with flexible hours to accommodate his music work.
As it turned out, shortly after he started this work, he felt prompted to visit one of the sites on a Sunday evening, a time when no one else was usually around. Unexpectedly, a customer was there who needed to dispose of the entire contents of his storage unit. In helping him, my friend ended up with quite a few needed things free of charge.
More meaningful than obtaining these items, though, was the same "heart-gladdening" that I felt on that long-ago spring day. It isn't a one-time high. It's a happiness that's perennial when we know we're each the chosen recipient of all the blessings God has to give – not because of special merit, duty, or demand, but simply because He loves us.
Understanding that it's our very purpose to experience and express good, we accept it with joy. And that's also how we say thanks.
Seek ye first
the kingdom of God,
and his righteousness;
and all these things
shall be added unto you.