Rosalind Goforth, in her story of the life she and her husband led as missionaries in China, told of being robbed by bandits of everything they possessed. She wept.

“But my dear,” her husband, Jonathan, chided, “They’re only things!”

“So also none of you can be a disciple of mine without parting with all his possessions,” was what Jesus said about things.

It is a stern condition. Few of us fulfill it literally.

I enjoy material things. In the hytte, primitive though it would seem to many Americans, we had plenty of comforts. There was a stainless-steel sink in the tiny kitchen, which lacked only faucets. It had a drain that ran into plastic containers that Lars emptied every few days. We had a bottled-gas stove on which we cooked and heated water in a big orange teakettle; all our hot water came from this source, to be used for both dishwashing and bathing. Water was collected in a large tank from the roof and carried into the house in a pail. The outhouse was first-class—lace curtains at the window, pictures on the walls.

I am back home now, however, and appreciate more than ever a tiled bathroom and a kitchen sink with faucets. Hot water is an extravagant luxury, and I often thank God for it.

It usually takes loss or deprivation in some measure for most of us to count the blessings we so readily take for granted. The loss of material things is not to be compared with the loss of people we love, but most of us have experienced both, and it is things we are considering now.

I lost a year’s language work at the end of my first year as a missionary.

Several years after my husband, Jim, died, I attended a performance at Lincoln Center, New York. When I took off my kid gloves later I saw that I had lost the diamond engagement ring he had given me. I went back immediately and searched through the rows of seats with a policeman and his flashlight, but the cleaning staff had already done their vacuuming.

In Costa Rica I was relieved of my billfold when I laid it on the counter for a second and fished in my bag for my passport. The nimble travel agent on the other side of the counter (there was no one else anywhere near us) knew nothing about it and most solicitously helped me look for it.

I lost a New Testament with nineteen years’ worth of notes in it.

My house has been robbed twice. The first time they got not only the replaceables, like the television, a radio, and a tape recorder, but all the heirloom sterling. When the second robbery occurred, I wondered why I had not put up a notice sooner: “This place has been cleaned out of the things you’re looking for—it will hardly be worth the risk of breaking in.” My friend Harriet Payson had a better idea. She put a little sign in her silver drawer, “God loves you.”

Few of us are as well acquainted with the extremes that the apostle Paul knew: “I know what it is to be brought low, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have been very thoroughly initiated into the human lot with all its ups and downs—fullness and hunger, plenty and want.” In whatever measure we have experienced these, the Lord has given us opportunity to learn the vital disciplines of possession.

The first lesson is that things are given by God.

“Make no mistake, my friends. All good giving, every perfect gift, comes from above, from the Father of the lights of heaven.”

I often see, shining in the deep blue of the sky just before dawn, the morning star. At twilight the sea sometimes reflects the pale rose and daffodil colors of the sunset. At night I awaken to find the room flooded with moonlight reflected from the sea, from the glass top of my desk by the window, and from the mirror of the dressing table. Flying at thirty thousand feet, I have seen glorious light shining on the towers and castles of thunderheads. What a gift are these lights of heaven! The same Father who gives them also gives us all other good and perfect things.

It is God’s nature to give. He can no more “help” giving than He can “help” loving. We can absolutely count on it that He will give us everything in the world that is good for us, that is, everything that can possibly help us to be and do what He wants. How can He not do this?

“He did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all; and with this gift how can he fail to lavish upon us all he has to give?”

Elliot, Elisabeth. 2021. Joyful Surrender: 7 Disciplines for the Believer’s Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.

We have just completed a 6-Part Study of Elezabeth Elliot’s classic book, Joyful Surrender. It is available as part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Lesson Subscription Service. It is also available on Amazon