I read a blog article earlier this week entitled, The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying. The well-intentioned gist of it was that Christians should stop saying “we’re so blessed” or “I feel blessed” when good things come our way (particularly in the way of financial or physical health). The idea being that it sends the message that if the one listening is NOT experiencing those same positives, they are not “blessed” or experiencing God’s favor. While I don’t believe we should ever be quiet about God’s goodness to us, I do agree with this author’s point about our unintentional miscommunication with the rest of the world about what that blessedness encompasses.
I’ve been to the jungles of Africa, been to mountain villages in Peru, and have seen with my own eyes the mystery of blessedness in regards to health and prosperity in the variable, global sense. I’ve also experienced serious clinical depression and have felt within my own heart that mystery of blessedness during the lowest time in my life. And I’ve witnessed the rags to riches life of my 87-year old father, where the raggedness was not just in the one set of clothes he wore as a child, and the riches were not simply measured by a healthy bank account as an adult. After reading today’s passages (Mk. 7 and Ps. 41 particularly), I want to offer up my own musings for consideration.
For all the times we throw it about, I think “blessing” is a tough word for us to understand. It is as full and rich and mysterious as the Blesser Himself. If I were to try to define ‘blessing’ my best shot would simply be, “Blessing is what comes from God for my good, His glory, and therefore His delight.” And, you can see the dilemma we have…for in that attempted definition are two more nebulous nouns–“good” and “delight.”
I think what it boils down to is this…blessing and good and delight are words first defined by God; we only understand those definitions ‘as through a glass darkly’ from our human vantage point. In Isaiah 53, where it prophesies about Christ’s death, we read the human take on things (v.4):
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
We also read “yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him…” (Isaiah 53:10a, KJV). Really? It PLEASED the Father to inflict pain on His innocent Son? Maybe another word we need to use a different dictionary for. Current translations say, “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him” and one can make the connection that God’s pleasure is synonymous with His Will. I won’t get into the theological debate for now about whether God “allows” or “sends” the stuff in our lives that we call bad and that we sometimes only later can see as good (depression, loss of job, etc.).
But I do agree that God’s blessing in our lives comes in response to something other than any spiritual brownie points we may imagine we are somehow earning. I read in Mk. 7 today that Jesus healed the woman’s daughter because of her Humility and Faith, not because she was ‘good enough’ to be blessed, or on Jesus’ short list. She was not a disciple and not a Jew, not part of the religious group He was first ministering and revealing Himself to.
I read about blessing again in today’s Psalm (41:1): “Blessed is he who has regard for the weak”… and that the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. Is that a promise to claim? Are we back to bartering with God? Or is it simply a generalization, more like a Proverb? That those who actively have regard for the weak (and I think that goes beyond just saying, ‘there, there’) are the ones who set aside their own resources (time and money) to come to their aid. Setting aside one’s own resources means putting Self lower on the priority list. Which, again, leads us back to the Humility and Faith of Mk. 7.
I suspect that blessing, like good, is something which can only be properly defined in God’s own celestial dictionary…and even then can only be comprehended with the eyes of Humility and Faith. I will tell you in no uncertain terms that it was “good” – a blessing – for me to fall into a clinical depression 17 years ago. Because from that came my irresistible draw into the One Year Bible, and the life-changing realization that I was not meant to live independent from God–no matter how tough and determined I felt myself to be.
So…maybe we need to continue to praise God for our blessings, but perhaps expand that list to include (as in the Beatitudes of Mt 5) the blessings in disguise? Isn’t that the Christian voice a hurting world needs to hear today?
FEB 25 ~ Leviticus 16:29-18:30 ~ Mark 7:24-8:10 ~ Psalm 41:1-13 ~ Proverbs 10:15-16