You see and hear it everywhere. I often come across photo captions with the hashtag “blessed”. “My new grandson was just born and he’s perfect! I’m so blessed! Found my soulmate #blessed. We’ve been so blessed to find our dream home. Life couldn’t get any better!”
Obviously, for most people, we consider good things as blessings. You don’t see too many facebook posts that say, “Just diagnosed with cancer! #blessed”. “Just buried my son today, and I’m feeling blessed!” It’s made me curious about what the Bible considers a blessing. What does it mean to be #blessed according to God? This prompted me to do a word study, going to my Concordance and looking up every reference that contained the words “bless, blessed, or blessing”.
Now, I’m not a theologian but these are just my conclusions about my brief word study. First, what is the dictionary definition of blessing? It says, “1. to hollow or consecrate (to make holy or set apart) 2. praise-glorify (as in “bless His Holy name) 3. to confer prosperity/happiness upon 4. to endow/favor. Many times, we think of a blessing in reference to numbers 3 and 4. It’s happiness, prosperity, or favor from God. Indeed, the Old Testament is full of God blessing certain people. God blessed Abraham with children and lots of descendants (Genesis 17:6, 22:17). In Deuteronomy 7:13-16 God spoke to the Israelites and urged them to keep themselves from idols and set apart for God and He would bless them with offspring both in livestock and among themselves. He would give their crops bountiful harvest and all sicknesses would be taken away. We know what are NOT considered blessings. Deuteronomy 28:2 says curses included confusion, perishing young, rebuke in everything they did, wasting disease, fever, inflammation, drought, heat, blight, and mildew. In the Old Testament, it very well exemplifies our modern day definition of what would be considered a blessing or a curse.
However, things get a little more muddled when we look at verses in the New Testament. 1 Peter 3:14 says, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are BLESSED.” 1 Peter 4:14 goes on to say, “If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are BLESSED, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. ” Matthew 5:11, “BLESSED are you when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me.” So, if you suffer for defending Christ and for doing his work, you are blessed. To suffer as Christ suffered, is considered a blessing.
Matthew 5 mentions many types of people who are considered blessed including those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn, the gentle, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart and the peacemakers. People who fit these categories can expect blessings such as the kingdom of heaven, comfort, inheriting the earth, righteousness, mercy, being called sons of God and seeing God. Incredible blessings right? Many of those blessings are not for this present life but future blessings in a world we don’t yet know. I don’t see anywhere God promising good health, a nice house, all of our dreams coming true and winning the lottery. Don’t get me wrong, if you have good health, a nice house, a successful business, and all the good things of this life, I absolutely believe those are things we should praise God for and be grateful for. They are indeed blessings. However, I also think we should consider ourselves blessed if we suffer for Christ or if we endure trials of many kinds.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
It’s not easy to endure dark trials and consider them a blessing. I would argue the trials themselves aren’t blessings but blessings do come through the suffering. Blessings like an increased empathy for those around me also suffering, a deeper understanding and reliance on God, more depth as a person, a perspective focused on what’s really important in life, more wisdom, more endurance. It’s really even hard to put into words all I’ve learned from suffering in my life. So while I still don’t think I’ll be captioning my bad news with #blessed, I do know the blessings that can come out of the pain.
My family is learning more perseverance, as my big brother has recently been diagnosed with colorectal cancer at only 34 years old. Our hearts are heavy but not lacking hope. Please pray for us, for Pat and his family, for peace that passes understanding and strength that can only come from God, and for healing. I’m trying to use what I’ve learned through my mom’s cancer journey and through my son’s short life, to get me through this new punch to the gut. In my son’s life, we grieved the bad news we often got, but we also never gave up hope and I wouldn’t have done it any other way. Back to baby steps, to taking life literally one day at a time, and never taking even the most mundane, monotonous days for granted.
We never appreciate the mundane more than when the mundane is suddenly stripped from our lives.
Picture of my brother and I in Venice when we did a missions trip to Italy in 2006.