What does it mean to be #Blessed?
“Blessed” is a big buzz word in the Christian community. It’s commonly printed across t-shirts, swapped with the word “good” in response to “How are you?”, and used in email signatures and hashtags. I often hear phrases like “I’m so blessed to have a loving husband and healthy children” or “I was so blessed to get this promotion”.
When Ethan died, these phrases began to grate on me. I was once brought to tears when a proud new grandfather shared that God had “honored his daughter’s faithfulness by blessing with pregnancy” because I felt as if I had been excluded from some sort of special club--the "blessed". It wasn’t that I found these declarations of God’s blessings to be untrue or inappropriate, but something wasn’t settling well with me. Some of the most faithful believers I knew were living under extreme difficulty and, though there was no denying it, I had never heard anyone describe them as “blessed”. I thought of a close friend who had been abandoned by a spouse, a young man I met in college who had lost his entire family during the Rwandan genocide, and mothers who had lost children. Flip on the news for five minutes and it quickly becomes clear that pain is real and rampant. Believers are starving. Dying. I couldn’t deny that these suffering believers were included in God’s blessing.
So what does it truly mean to be blessed? I consulted a basic English dictionary and saw that the literal definition of “blessed” is “made holy; consecrated”. It also lists God’s favor and our well being as alternate descriptions. Even by worldly definitions, blessings have a much broader scope than an easy life. I typically think of well being as comfort and ease, but scripture and even my own personal experiences challenge this assumption. Think on the experiences in your life that have brought you toward holiness and made you more like Jesus. I’d love to say that my spiritual growth has been most strengthened during seasons of ease, but the opposite is true. It has been in the depths of suffering that I have been transformed the most and have felt a desperation for Christ more than ever before.
Jesus unpacks what it means to be “blessed” in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:1-11. While teaching his disciples, Jesus says:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
The poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek (or gentle/submissive), those who hunger for Christ and pursue holiness, and those who are mistreated probably don’t seem “blessed” based on our western redefinition of the word. It could be tempting for us to look at those in these situations and assume that they are somehow being robbed of God’s blessing and provision, but Jesus shatters that assumption and asserts that these are those that are blessed. The greatest blessing we can receive is Jesus Christ. We could lose every single thing we have on this earth, but if we have him, we have everything. In my flesh I would never choose suffering, but I’m continually amazed and grateful to see how God uses these experiences to draw us closer to us and to sanctify us (you could also say “to consecrate us and make us holy”), which is literally the definition of a “blessing”.
Somewhere down the line I had made the false assumption that blessings were something I could earn by being “good enough” and, while there are plenty of examples in scripture of God rewarding his children for their faithfulness, the greatest gift of Jesus cannot be earned. I’ll never be “good enough”, yet Jesus made a way for us to have the opportunity to believe and receive Him. We have been given every spiritual blessing in Christ. We have been adopted as sons and daughters. We have been marked with the Holy Spirit.
When I scroll through social media and am met with the hashtag #blessed on photos of smiling families and celebratory events, I am reminded that the hashtag is not overused as I once thought. I now believe that we don’t use it enough.
Yes, the smiling faces we see are blessed. We should praise God for the good gifts He lavishes on His children, whether physical or spiritual and whether He gives or takes away. The new baby, the job offer, the remission from cancer, and the answered prayer are blessings that we should certainly praise God for. Let us continue to declare His goodness in our victories. But let us not stop there. May we praise God for His blessings when we lose our house, the cancer returns, a friend turns their back on us, or we stand beside the grave of someone we love. May we cling to Christ, knowing that we are blessed even in our deepest suffering. May we exhale knowing He works all things together for good for those who love him. May we continue to encourage one another to remember these truths when we feel hurt and forgotten, and let’s lean into Christ when it is tempting to run the other way.
Holly and I chat about this at length in Through the Lens Ep. 10: #Blessed
Scriptures for further study-
James 1:12 “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
Luke 11:28 “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”