The word blessing has really had me thinking lately.
Mostly about what it means to me. How I often think of blessings as things I can count, see or experience. I have mulled it over a lot in my mind. There are some people who appear to be so blessed – maybe with big families or comfortable lifestyles. Lives that are relatively easy and tragedy free. But does that make them “more” blessed than others who don’t experience those things?
And then I read this blog by Kelle Hampton, and I felt like she had been reading my mind. She says this:
In observing different gratitude projects circling social media this month, I’ve been thinking about its very complex meaning. So many of the things we are grateful for have inverses: having a home vs. not having a home, being healthy vs. being ill, having a job vs. being unemployed, etc. But gratitude is more than an I’m-so-glad-my-life-is-better-than-that-person’s-life list. In fact, it shouldn’t be that at all. Being exposed to the inverses of good fortune is a wonderful catalyst for gratitude. I can’t help but kiss my babies’ cheeks and feel thankful for their health when I hear of mamas huddling over sick babies in hospitals; and witnessing storm damage, gas lines, and crowds of hungry people gathered in the northeast this week certainly makes me thankful for food and power and a structurally sound home. This is only one facet of gratitude though, lending to the very important awareness component of its meaning; but it doesn’t seem a very humble definition. The true depth of gratitude comes when you move beyond awareness and find ways to do something for someone else–to bring gratitude to other places in the world. I still make lists of things for which I’m grateful. I still need stories of “not having” to sometimes remind me of what I do have. But I’m learning more to breathe gratitude and to find ways of practicing it hidden in corners beyond the obvious check-lists of health, jobs, home, things, etc.
Oh, she is so much more eloquent than I am and I felt myself nodding along as I was reading. She says it so much better than I ever could – but substitute the word gratitude for blessing and it was like I was reading my own thoughts.
The past few months for us have been extremely difficult, for several reasons. We have personal things going on that are hard. And sad. And really, really trying. I’m not just talking about losing our daughter – on top of that, there have been other really hard things we are wading through. And it’s easy to sit around and wonder where our blessings are. To feel disappointed or frustrated and ask God where ARE YOU?
But then there are the times where I look around and can SEE my blessings. We have a house filled with food to eat, furniture to sit on, family to laugh with. We are warm and clothed. We have cars to drive. We are all healthy. My husband works insane hours, in part so I can stay home with the kids. I have incredibly thoughtful and amazing friends. We have a church full of giving and sacrificial people who leave me in awe each and every week.
And yes, those are blessings. I can see those things and realize that I am blessed. But what about when I was a single mom, struggling to make ends meet? Working 60+ hours a week at times, falling behind on my bills, and at one point even being evicted from my apartment with nowhere to go.. Was I any less blessed? Was I any less important to God?
Do the hard things I’ve experienced – or are currently experiencing – in my life make me any less blessed?
Recently, my husband preached about the Sermon on the Mount. I wrote down something he said that grabbed my heart and brought me to tears. He said that Jesus values weakness, sacrifice, grief and exclusion. We live in a world that values power, comfort, success and recognition. It’s easy for us to view personal hardship as punishment for something we’ve done wrong. It’s hard not to place blame on ourselves when the you know what hits the fan. We feel guilty for not being perfect, we assume God’s judgment is upon us or we feel angry for having to go through yet ANOTHER trial, hit another road block, find yet another barrier to climb over.
It goes against everything we naturally feel to be thankful for hardship. It is natural to feel like being blessed comes in the form of something tangible or material. And while some blessings are tangible and material, many are intangible. And knowing that Jesus values weakness, sacrifice, grief and exclusion comforts me. Because who among us has not experienced at least one of those? Chances are we will all experience each one of those things at some point in time or another.
I may face hardship, sadness and trials daily. But God has not forsaken me, and I am not without blessing.
And as we move into the final week of The Challenge at Next Level Church – Celebration Sunday – I go forward with faith, giving sacrificially because as Kelle Hampton said, “The true depth of gratitude comes when you move beyond awareness and find ways to do something for someone else–to bring gratitude to other places in the world.”
I encourage you to prayerfully do the same.