I have seen many things in the last month about 2014 being a year of blessing, and I’m all for that. It has, however, gotten me thinking about what it really means to be blessed.
I’ve heard quite a lot of people over the years that seem to have this idea that God will “bless” those who are following Him or have enough faith or…. fill in the blank. The blessings they speak of often have much to do with material possessions, happy relationships – the American dream and the perfect life it represents.
I realize that Jesus said if we have faith, we will receive what we pray for, but I’m not sure He meant that verse to be turned into a theology I have come to know as “blab it, grab it” or “name it, claim it”. (Along that line of thought, I have a friend, born with a disability, who is in a wheelchair because of it. She has been told by this camp that if she had enough faith, she wouldn’t be stuck in that chair. Not only is that an extremely judgmental statement, but it simply isn’t true.)
Enough about that though, let’s get back to the idea of blessings. My question is: Who gets to decide what blessings look like? The same question applies to the “good” referred to in Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who are called according to His purpose.”
My guess would be that since God is the one working through things and giving the blessings, it is His definition that counts. So, how does He define blessing? Let’s check out Matthew 5: 3-12:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the gentle for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.”
Looking at some of those “blessings”, I’m not sure I would use that word to describe them. In fact, as much as I desire to be the kind of person that would welcome each of those attributes in my life, I’m much more likely to avoid them.
The idea that living a life full of blessings means that trouble never visits is ludicrous in my mind. It also has the potential to be detrimental to the children of God and those desperately seeking the love He can give.
Imagine becoming a follower of Christ and believing that life will now be grand. When tragedy strikes, there are two options to explain it. The first is to believe that they were somehow not enough – didn’t have enough faith, didn’t do enough of _______, or were deficient in some other way. Basically, they failed to earn the answer to their cries, and therefore they brought the pain or sorrow on themselves. The alternative is to doubt God’s character. After all, if they were living in faith and something bad still happened, then God didn’t keep His “promise” that He would bless their life in the way they were led to believe He would.
The fact is, we live in a fallen world, and bad things happen. Sometimes we bring them about, and sometimes we don’t. I’m fairly certain that God never causes them, but He does use them for our good – according to HIS definition, of course. In fact, some of the most difficult times in my life are the ones I now look back on in wonder at how much I grew and the things I learned.
So, as you face difficulties, take a moment to realize that God will use those circumstance to draw you to Him, to bring growth and good if you will let Him. It may even be a blessing in disguise, or a blessing according to His definition, not yours. Don’t beat yourself up that you “don’t have enough faith” to fix it. Pray, knock, ask, and let Him answer in the way He knows is best.
In the same way, as you walk alongside others in their journey of faith, encourage those who are facing their own struggles. Don’t bring judgment, as Job’s friends did, but build them up.
I do pray that 2014 is a year of blessing in my life and the lives of those I love, but I am aware of the fact that the blessing may not present itself in the way that I expect or hope. I still choose to trust and walk in faith whatever it brings.