“What a blessing!”
“We are so blessed.”
“Bless your heart.”
I live in the South so of course I had to throw that last one in. But the truth of the matter is that we throw these cliches around many times, and I wonder if we even know what we are saying…
What is a blessing? What does it mean to be blessed? I will be exploring this idea and thinking this month because it is something I have been pondering about for a while.
I know some of you may be thinking, Why does that even matter? How is that the most important thing for us to talk about? Well, we will never understand all that is God, but we do need to understand how God blesses us. If we think good things are blessings from God and bad things are not, then we are missing the point entirely, and then we are really misunderstanding who God is.
So what is a blessing?
How can we define a blessing?
In the Old Testament, the term “blessing” is used over 600 times. We see this when God seeks to bless Israel and Abraham, among others. But in the Old Testament, the word blessing is associated with the meaning “to kneel” because one often had to kneel to receive a ceremonial blessing.
So let me stop right here. Before I have even given you a real definition, I want you to see this point. In the beginning of time, they had to kneel to receive a blessing. They had to get down, stoop down, lower themselves in order to find the reward waiting for them.
That shows me that sometimes literally and metaphorically, I may have to get down on my knees – or more accurately – I may be forced down on my knees in order to receive a blessing. I might be humbled a little (or a lot). I might have to look at the ground for a while. I might have to let others stand over me, before I will receive a blessing.
Blessings might require some sacrifice and struggle. They might not all be about success and prosperity. This point alone should begin to shift the way we see a blessing.
But if we move on to the more general definition used to define a blessing, most agree it means “favored status with God,” which to begin with sounds pretty good, but God’s favored status does not mean we are like spoiled children who get whatever we want. God is interested in blessing us with spiritual and eternal blessings. Worldly blessings play second string with God.
Let’s look at just a few examples:
Job was blessed beyond measure. He had wealth and family and friends. The devil even reminds God, “You have blessed the work of his hands” (Job 1: 10). God, however, allows the devil to take that all away in order to prove the devil wrong, in order to grow Job’s faith, and in order to influence the lives of others. So which was the blessing? When God gave Job all the material blessings? Or when he allowed the devil to take it all away?
David was just a shepherd boy that was chosen to be king. That would seem like a tremendous blessing, but then David feared for his life and spent years running from Saul.
Mary had to be one of the most blessed women around. Luke 1:42 says, “Blessed are you among women.” I mean, she actually carried baby Jesus. She was responsible for raising a healthy, well-rounded child. But then she had to watch her baby boy die in the most agonizing way possible.
And look at all of the disciples. I know many of us are a little envious of their time with Jesus. Jesus even took the time to bless them before his ascension (Luke 24:50), but nearly every one of them ended up a martyr for Christ.
So let’s remember, living a blessed life, a life favored by Christ may not mean we live an easy life. We may not have wealth, prosperity, or ease. Blessings aren’t always going to be positive in human eyes.
Blessings should draw us closer to God, and if it doesn’t, is it really a blessing?
When pondering and praying over this topic, I thought about my children. I was “blessed” with two healthy children. My oldest loves to play baseball. We spend a lot of time and money allowing him to enjoy that sport. If I begin to let my son play baseball every weekend, taking us away on Sundays, if I allow him to go to batting practice every Wednesday and miss Bible study, if I allow him to place baseball over Christ, has his health really been a blessing? Or have I allowed it to be a blessing? Seems I have allowed it to be more of a distraction.
Again, I can’t say enough how thankful I am that I have healthy children, because I don’t understand the burden of those who struggle daily with the well being of their children. But what I am saying is that a blessing is not a blessing unless we allow it to draw us closer to God.
I am not more blessed than a family who have children with health issues. I am not more blessed than a family who lost their house in the storm. I am not more blessed than the family who struggles to pay the bills. Yes, I am thankful for all of these things, but these things don’t necessarily equal blessings.
Take some time and look at your life. I bet we have all had moments that we thought were the exact opposite of blessings. But look at them again… Did you see God in those moments? Could you sense Him there? Did He remind you that you were one of His children? Did the entire situation draw you closer to Christ? If so, then it was a blessing.
I also want you to take some time and look at your so called “blessings” – a nice house, a great job, a little extra money in your bank account, healthy children, vacation time, a great family, supportive friends – whatever it may be. Now ask yourself… Are these things drawing me closer to God? Am I using these things to strengthen my relationship with God and possibly even influence the relationship of others? If not, you may want to reevaluate your “blessings.”
In Isaiah 55:8-9, God says,
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
I know it is tempting to sit here and want to rationalize some of this thinking. How could we call that a blessing? And if nice things and a healthy family aren’t blessings, then I don’t want to be blessed. I get it. But don’t limit God nor our human mind to understanding Him. Instead take every moment, every situation, every victory, and every crisis and ask yourself, How is God using this to bless me? How can I draw closer to God through this?
Heaven is higher than earth, and when God blesses us, that is what he has in mind.