…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 RSV
Driving home from work the other day, I was enraptured by how blessed I am. It started off with being thankful that I have a good reliable car to get me where I need to go. Then, I also began to think about how God had provided me with good jobs, friends, and housing in a new city at exactly the time I needed them. I have a supportive family and boyfriend, and everyday day I do the work I love. In that moment, I was so grateful that I was almost moved to tears.
I pray that you, too, have had one of these moments at some point in your life.
Fortunately, however, God also blessed me with an intense moment of self-awareness. Driving home that night, running through my list of blessings, I suddenly realized that this moment of profound and sincere gratitude had come at a time in my life where things were going very well. I was on the mountaintop. It’s easy to be grateful when you feel so blessed.
But what about those times when things aren’t going so well? What happens when life gets hard? Am I as grateful when I find myself in the low valley? Am I thankful when I don’t feel blessed?
If I’m honest, the answer is no. However, this answer is based on a fundamental misconception of what it means to be blessed.
As a society, we’ve decided to define “blessed” as feeling that things are going your way. Just take a look at our social media. Got a new job? #blessed. Got engaged? Bought a house? Received an award? Celebrating the birth of a new grandchild? #blessed.
In all of those instances we are indeed blessed, but there was a time when Jesus used that word to describe people in very different circumstances, people whose lives were not going their way at all.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5: 3-10 RSV
None of those people were called blessed because of what they had, or achieved, or won. None of them were called blessed because others recognized them as such. They were not blessed because of what happened to them on the outside, but because of what God was doing for them on the inside.
It’s hard. When we are suffering or disappointed, when things are not going our way, it’s hard to see the good. We’re hurt, heartbroken, and sometimes very angry. But Jesus teaches us that in that same moment, we are also #blessed.
When we are at our lowest, when we have lost our jobs, our homes, our spouses, and our children; when we have lost our health, our happiness, and perhaps even our heads, we have not lost our hope.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. Psalm 73:26 NLT
You see, “blessed” is not a feeling. It’s a state of being which cannot be altered by our circumstances, because when we have nothing, we still have everything. God is still God. God is still love, and mercy, and justice. And we still know Him. What’s more, He knows us, and is still pursuing us with unabated passion. We are still, and always, the ones he died to save.
Sitting in my car that night, realizing this, I felt not the guilt that was perhaps appropriate, but astonishment that I should ever have forgotten what it was that made me truly #blessed.
Whether you find yourself on the mountaintop or in the valley today, I hope you take a moment to meditate on where our true blessing really lies.
Jesus, Make us grateful. Give us eyes to see what it is that really makes us blessed, and forgive us when we allow our gratitude to extend only to those blessings which can be measured in “likes.” For we know that when all else fades, faith, hope, and love remain (1 Corinthians. 13:13). In Your Name, Amen.