The ‘30 Day Marinade‘ I am reading alongside my journey through James says the following about this verse:
“In our me-centred generation, the enemy has an easy job convincing us that James lied in verse 17: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change”. Our natural response to hardship can often be: ‘Because my life is not one of ease and comfort, God must be withholding His best from me. A good Father wouldn’t do that’. We forget what 1 Peter says – that God is interested in bringing us to maturity so that we lack nothing; God is more interested in our character than in our comfort.”
This is true, but I think it slightly misses what we often feel in response to the verse. It’s not that we think it isn’t true, but we think it is more limited than I believe it is.
We think it means ‘only things which feel good and perfect in the moment are from above’ whereas I think what it means (and what the writer above is trying to get at), is: ‘every gift from above is good and perfect’. We’re quick to praise God for giving us a job we love, but what about the ones we hate, or at least find more of a struggle? It’s easy to praise him for an easy house-move, a wonderful spouse or a great exam result, but if he is truly God and truly good, then everything he gives us or allows to happen to us must be good.
I don’t know how one looks in the eyes of persecuted believers who are imprisoned, tortured and killed for their faith and still believes this teaching, but I know that they believe it more strongly than we in the comfortable West do. If our theology doesn’t have room for such hard teaching, then we don’t know the true God.
Conversely, the reverse is also true – just because something feels good doesn’t mean it is, and isn’t a good indication that it is a gift from God.