What I mean when I say I’m “blessed”…

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.

Original-Hipster-Poster19x27

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.

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Comments

  1. I love this! Thank you for sharing. We are truly blessed!
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  2. I read that “I’m Blessed” article and felt the same way you did. Although I have a different take on the word “I’m Blessed””

    When I hear people say “I’m Blessed” I take it to mean that the good things they are saying they are blessed for are GIFTS from God and they have them only due to God’s goodness and NOT because of their own merit..almost as a way of saying “they got lucky” or are “fortunate” but it’s a way of saying that it is NOT someting they did or that they deserve. It’s a way of being, humble, I guess.

    Almost the opposite of what the author was saying, there he seemed to say most people say “prosperity happens to the faithful.” or “I’m Blessed because I am good/faithful/etc.”

    It’s an age-old question of why some people have certain trials when others don’t…but God said the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike, so only God knows why he allows certain people to experience certain trials and other people get different trials.
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    • Amelia, that’s always what I’ve thought, too. It’s funny, because (I believe) the other article was aimed at a certain subset of Christianity that I’m not necessarily part of. But I thought it was worth re-claiming the word, rather than submitting to an arbitrary demand to avoid offending people.

  3. Spirituality Seeker says:

    Aside from the misuse issue, I’m curious what your response to the “alienates others” portion of the article is. Being conscious and conscientious of others beliefs and biases has merit, and certainly doesn’t mean one is copromising their own beliefs, just communicating in terminology all can relate to, meeting them where they are…

    • Good question. I think it depends on circumstance and sensitivity. For example, it would be insensitive of me to go on and on about what blessings my children are to a friend who is struggling with infertility. But when I’m speaking to the “world” at large (ha! My little blog world) I may speak a bit differently. I don’t think it’s necessary or even particularly helpful to whitewash our vocabulary to spare others’ feelings (when we’re speaking in a group setting). It’s better to clarify what we mean re-claim phrases that have been co-opted for other uses. Does that make sense?

  4. I can now see that many blessings have come from my sufferings, the biggest one’s being the loss of my dad at the age of 11 and our decision to have a vasectomy. As you said, “I am blessed by all of it.” I am blessed by the good and the not so good. So glad I found your blog! I look forward to checking it out.

  5. I like your definition of blessing. I think a blessing is anything that can be used to bring us closer to God. I think wealth can sometimes be a burden. I think of the rich young man in the gospel who walked away from Jesus. His wealth was not a blessing to him.

    I think of my own life and most of the times that I have felt the closet to Christ and have felt the most blessed have been when something was not going well. One recent example: last fall my toddler broke his femur and was in a body cast for 6 weeks. I had a newborn and 3 other kiddos and it was horrible and beautiful all at the same time. I can honestly say that I am thankful for the whole experience. I have never felt so blessed. Mostly because we were living on grace and weren’t relying on ourselves.

    My go-to answer to the question “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” is another question: How would we know if He isn’t preventing even more bad things from happening? And what if He allows a “small” bad thing to happen to prevent an even bigger bad thing? Like a minor car accident that protected a person from getting into a major car accident further down the road.

  6. I agree with your definition of blessed. That’s mine, too. But I am learning to be blessed by everything in my life, good or bad. Emphasis on learning. I still fail quite a bit. Usually I’m kicking and screaming (figuratively), whining and complaining during the bad times, if not out loud then always in my head. It’s a work in progress, that’s for sure. *I’m* a work in progress.

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