There it was again, right in the middle of my news feed.
Some friends had bought a new house, and were saying how blessed they were.
That word gives me the willies.
Like the friend who escaped a car accident with mere scratches, and they all said how blessed and protected she was. Blessed.
Like the friend whose baby was born without defect. Blessed.
Like the perfect family vacation to a hot place. Blessed.
Like the women who was healed from cancer. Blessed.
So what happens when the house doesn’t sell, the baby is born with Down’s Syndrome, there is no money for a vacation, and the person you need most in the world dies of cancer?
If all these good things are God’s blessings from his generous right hand, the flip side seems to be that all the bad things are the removal of his hand from us in a cosmic “screw you”.
Except that God isn’t like that. Sometimes it may feel like he’s giving us the finger, but really, he just doesn’t do that. A thorough reading of the Bible shows that he has more patience and love for us than we could ever comprehend. So if the problem is not God, the problem must lie with us.
With our definition of blessed.
Our definition says that when life is good, when the kids are well-behaved and the new house comes through and there’s enough money and the cancer is healed, we are blessed.
But Jesus said something very different.
Blessed are you who are poor. Not the middle-class person with enough money to share, but the ones who never have enough for a Mexico vacation. Blessed are those who are poor.
Blessed are you who are hungry now. Not the folks with full cupboards, but the family who uses the food bank and eats mostly canned food. Blessed are those who are hungry.
Blessed are you who weep now. Not those who have good health, but those who struggle with the mystery of Lyme disease or cancer, and those that have lost the battle for life. Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, not even death. Blessed are those who weep.
Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you. Not when your world is hanging on our every word with bated breath, but when the internet trolls come out, when your family hates you, when your children turn their backs on you because you dared to say the name of Christ. Blessed are the excluded and hated.
So then what is the blessing of God?
When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were about to be executed, they were confident that their God would save them. But, they told the King, even if he does not, we will still worship him. Because God’s blessing is not shown through the outward circumstances of our lives.
God’s blessing looks like his willingness to forgive our apathy and sin. God’s blessing looks like his presence in the storms of life. God’s blessing looks like pain much of the time, because we are growing through it. God’s blessing looks like the ability to hold onto hope when you are being swallowed up by darkness.
This means I am still blessed when the child dies, when the spouse leaves, when the house doesn’t sell, when I lay in my bed, sick and alone. He is still worthy of worship, even if I am not in my happy place.
Jesus said blessed are the poor, blessed are the persecuted, not blessed are those who are healthy and happy and have a new home and have never had an important person die. In fact, often the very things we call blessings from God are the very things Jesus said would keep us from him: money, family, possessions.
Do we long for the blessings of God? Or just the outward trappings of an upper middle-class, North American life?
His blessing does not look like the North American world says his blessing looks like. It does not necessarily look like physical protection, it does not necessarily look like the perfect new job or raise or an offer on the house. We can certainly be thankful for those things, and of course, all good things come from God. But humans aren’t always the best judges of what is “good”.
So can we agree to stop throwing that word around so glibly? Because when we use “blessed” in our middle-class North American way, the rest of the world interprets our words through their own circumstances. And if being blessed looks like a safe neighbourhood and good kids and physical health, then it looks like the rest of the world is being cursed.
Which is a load of hooey.
God is blessing the Christians in China and North Korea with a closeness that we can’t begin to imagine. God is blessing Syria with courage. God is blessing our world with leaders that are willing to put selfishness aside and make choices to protect our global climate.
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.
With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you.
Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less.
That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God.
He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
You’re blessed when you care.
At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right.
Then you can see God in the outside world.
You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight.
That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution.
The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.”
Matthew 5:3-10 MSG
May you experience God’s blessings today.
(Edited to add this fabulous comment from a friend: “My current thoughts float around the idea that a blessing from God is something that makes us more like Him and is meant to enhance the kingdom of God. I think then it is very personalized… God might “bless” me with a low income so I can understand a certain demographic and advocate for them in a way that shows love & builds relationship to build up the kingdom. To someone else a blessing may be a house because they have giftings in hospitality or prayer or service,etc and their home will help further the work of God in their life and in the kingdom. When things happen in my life like I get a rockstar parking space, or a new job, I try not to label it as a blessing, sometimes I say that God was gracious, but more often I try to just simply acknowledge in my heart or in a prayer that God saw me, made his presence known, I saw Him, and am thankful.” So beautiful and freeing.
This article originally appeared Wise For Salvation.