Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Do you recognize the lyrics to this old gospel song? This is one I grew up on and will probably be singing all day just because I type the lyrics here. But, that is not such a bad thing, it is actually a nice reminder to focus my mind on the positive – or maybe not…
I mean when you think about counting blessings, you immediately go to things like health, family, home, career, friends, etc…Things that are usually born out of prosperity, not out of desperation. But let’s go back to our definition of a blessing from my first post on blessings.
Blessings are usually defined as favored status with God and at first glance, our family, friends, home, career, and all the others may appear to be favor from God, but is God really concerned with those things? No, not the way we are. God is focused on eternal and spiritual blessings. God wants to give us situations and circumstances that will draw us closer to Him. He doesn’t necessarily want to give us that vacation home if he knows it will pull us away from Him.
So when we hear the lyrics “Count your blessings, name them one by one,” what should we really be counting? We should be focused on the moments in life that drew us closer to God, the moments where He may have been all we had, the moments that we may not have survived if it wasn’t for Him. Those are our true blessings.
Let’s look at Jacob for a minute. I recently studied him in a Bible study I am doing (Seamless by Angie Smith – SO GOOD! – Go check it out) so he came to mind as I thought and prayed over this topic. Jacob, with the help of his mom, stole his birthright and inheritance from his older brother Esau. He then had to leave town, for fear of this life. He ended up with an uncle and worked 14 years to finally get to marry the woman of his dreams – of course after he was tricked into marrying the wrong sister. So now his family is pretty established with two wives and their maid servants and a growing number of children. But again trouble is rising so God instructs Jacob to go back to his homeland. And who does he see far off in the distance, heading in his direction? Esau, of course.
Fear instantly hits Jacob and he begins preparing a present for Esau (because that will make up for stealing his birthright?!?). He then sends his wife and children ahead for the night and he is left alone.
Now the story gets kind of crazy here. It just says, “And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.” This is definitely one of those cases where I wish the Bible gave me a little more detail. I mean, how did that really play out? Did the man just appear and instantly the fight was on or did he says something about Jacob’s mama first? Just kidding… But, this is a curious story.
So according to scripture they wrestled all night, and Jacob was pretty good at holding his own. The man even had to put his hip out of joint just to make a little head way with Jacob. When day breaks, the man is ready to call it quits, but Jacob says, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Jacob had struggled mentally and physically all night long. He was not coming out of this fight without something to show for it.
I am not sure at what point he realized he was fighting with God, but I feel like that moment really changed Jacob (I mean, how could it not?!?) And as Jacob’s blessing for wrestling with God, his name was changed to Israel and from there, we see his children go on to form the 12 tribes of Israel, which is a pretty big deal in terms of biblical history.
But do you see what Jacob had to endure to get to that point? He was the underdog to Esau, so he saw fit to steal his birthright, then he fled his home country, worked seven years for the woman he loved only to realize he had married the wrong one, then worked seven more years for the right woman, then he aggravated the father-in-law, so he has to flee again, and who is the first person he meets on the road, but his estranged brother Esau. And God saw fit that at that moment, they should wrestle.
So which part do you think Jacob would call the blessing? Just the blessing itself? Or the entire rocky road that led to that blessing. Could he have really been the person he needed to be – a person with just enough endurance to wrestle with God all night – if he had not struggled through all those other moments? I mean if you can wait on a woman for 14 years, a night probably seems like nothing.
Now look back on your rocky road, or maybe not-so-rocky road. Can you see how one event led to another? Can you see where one struggle led to another blessing?
I know that is on of my favorite things about God and about my life. I can look back and see his hand in so much. I can see moments he orchestrated early on, so that we could be taken care of.
For example, I was still in college when I go married. My husband was older and working at the time. With us being on our own now, we knew he needed a job with insurance, so he found a very thankless state job and he sacrificed his time there so we would have insurance until I began teaching. As soon as he could go back to building cabinets, which is what he enjoyed, he did. And he worked successfully at that for several years, but the recession hit and there was not enough work. We struggled just as we were having our first child. We nearly eliminated our savings trying to make it work, as he looked for other things to do. But thanks to some help from God and good friends, he was able to begin working for the federal government, all because he had the experience with the state government. If it wasn’t for that job we thought was just for insurance, he would not have his career today. We wouldn’t have the benefits and retirement and consistent income our family needs. And that is just one example I can look back on and see that God was handling everything for us, even through the struggle.
So here’s what I want you to do. I want you to count your blessings. I want you to sit down in the near future – maybe even when you are feeling depressed or frustrated and you need a focus adjustment – and make a list of your blessings. Now, remember, don’t count your family and your car and your nice house. Sure those things are great, but they don’t necessarily bring the eternal blessings that God is focused on.
Count the bad relationship that helped you learn how to love your spouse.
Count the awful job you suffered through but made it possible for your dream job.
Count the illness your family member experience that brought you to your knees more than ever before.
Count the troubled child that forced you into the Word searching for answers.
Count the empty bank account that forced you to turn to God for his provision.
Count the moments when all your strength was lost so you knew it was God’s strength that got you through.
I want you to sit down and count those blessings. Make a list. Tuck it away somewhere, maybe in your Bible, and pull it out when you need that reminder. When your faith is wavering, when you are asking why me, when you just don’t understand what is going on, take that list out and read back over God’s faithfulness. Read back over all the moments he was there and you didn’t even realize it.
See those moments are the true blessing. The moments when we are backed against the wall, all control is stolen from us, and we have to look to God. That is where he wants us and that is how he will bless us… so count those moments.