A couple months ago, a friend of mine posted a link to (the first edition of) The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying. Me, being an insufferable sucker for “The One Thing”-type marketing, simply had to click over. In case you don’t have time to read that article yourself (and really, you should, lest I misrepresent it), here’s my take on it: the author, Scott Dannemiller, thinks Christians (himself included) use the term “blessed” in all the wrong ways. We use it to comment on our material wealth, which, in his experience leads to the Prosperity Gospel-type thinking: those who are materially blessed must be more faithful and therefore more beloved by God. Therefore, Dannemiller says faithful Christians should forego using the term “blessed” lest it alienate others. He recommends we instead use the term “grateful.”
I found myself nodding through parts, cringing at others, and flat-out annoyed at a single phrase (“dumb luck,” which Dannemiller has removed since it went viral). I was able to see the merit of many of his arguments. Especially against the Prosperity Gospel. Heeeellooooo, heresy. How art thou?
But the overall message of his article got me thinking about the bigger picture of what I do believe about God’s providence in general and being “blessed” specifically. Here’s what I came up with. I’d love to know your thoughts, too. And just FYI, here’s me playing amateur theologian, so feel free to correct me with Church teachings if I stray.
Here’s how I break it down.
God’s providence is given to all of us, at all times.
Everything good, true, beautiful: comes from God.
Everything else: is allowed by God.
Therefore, God’s providence is not limited to material blessings, but rather extends to every thing in our lives. Tha’s right: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Every. Last. Thing.
Now, I must be a sucker for a debate, because: cue the eternal atheist argument: “if God existed, He wouldn’t cause/allow XYZ terrible things to happen to people.” To which I will answer: “God gave us free will. Every person on earth must choose to do good or evil, to love Him or to defy Him. God’s love for us isn’t diminished by the evil in the world, it is proved by it.” Not that I’ve convinced anyone yet, but that’s my answer unless y’all know a better one.
But I, as I so often do, digress.
I guess my answer to Dannemiller isn’t that we should stop using the term blessed, it’s that we should use it in the correct context. As Christians who believe in God’s providence, we should feel comfortable saying, “I’m blessed by all the wonderful people in my life. Oh, and gee, this other experience totally sucks, and yet, I know God is blessing me, somehow, some way. I may not always like it, but I accept it as a part of His plan for me. I am blessed.” It’s pretty counter-cultural to say that, I know. But haven’t you heard? Jesus was the original hipster.
Let me share an example with you. A little over a year and half ago, I had a life-changing altercation with some very dear friends. From one day to the next – no actually, from one moment to the next, the course of our friendships was changed. It was one of those lifetime lines of demarcation. You know the ones: before baby was born/after baby was born, before my parent died/after my parent died, and so on. You can define the segments of your life by them, right? This was one of those moments.
This experience was painful enough to cause not only a whole lot of humiliation, heartache and tears, but a physical reaction as well. I stopped eating, sleeping, taking care of myself. If you’d have told me then that this experience would have been a blessing, I probably would have slapped you in the face.
But it was. And it still is. You see, I had no idea in that moment what God was going to work in me, the growth and the change that would result from such an awful and painful altercation. I am a different woman, a better woman, because of it.
Here’s my point: I’d sooner stop breathing than stop thanking God for all the blessings in my life. Even if I’m thanking Him through gritted teeth for the blessing-in-disguise, I’m going to do it. I guess I just need to be able to speak against our culture that says that if it doesn’t feel good, it must be bad.
So, just for future reference, here’s what I mean when I say, “I’m blessed”:
God, I accept all of this messy life You’ve entrusted me with. I trust in Your goodness, mercy and omniscience and most of all, in Your love for me. I’ll praise You in the good times, and in the bad times, and I will never stop proclaiming these as blessings.
I am blessed by all of it. I am truly blessed.