Dear (Insert Your Name Here),
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be blessed. I think it’s a word we like the sound of and a concept/state of being we all want for ourselves as Christians – and on some level even as human beings in general – but I don’t quite think we understand what it means TO be truly blessed.
Somehow, we have made the mistake (I believe) of attaching ‘blessed’ to material gain and social standing as Christians. We hashtag #blessed on our Instagram photos posing by our new cars, or use the word when we tell others about the rare opportunities we get. ‘Blessed and highly favored’ is one we frequently use to describe ourselves even in anticipation of some sort of wealth or social gain. And I get it – we all want the blessings of God. And we know that God bestows all those things, so we know if we have them then they’re solely from Him. But I have this nagging thought that I can’t shake, and the thought is this:
If I am #blessed for having all the things and opportunities I have now, does that mean I was not blessed before them? When growing up my family struggled to make ends meet, was I any less blessed than I am now? When I moved to the US and had nothing – no college acceptance letter or job – and was still waiting on God to show up and show out, was I un-blessed? If I am blessed because God has so graciously given me a family, does that mean that the person without one is not? When we say things like ‘thank God that you woke up this morning alive and well, with everything intact, because you are blessed!’ are we saying that the person who is terminally ill or who lost his limbs or her sight is, by effect, not?
See, I refuse to believe that ‘blessed’ is some state of being we aspire to or pray for. It isn’t about material gain or wealth or social status. I believe ‘blessed’ is who we are by extension of WHOSE we are, regardless of our circumstance.
Jesus illustrates this idea clearly in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. He says:
Blessed are the poor…
Blessed are those who mourn…
Blessed are the meek…
Blessed are the hungry…
Blessed are the merciful…
Blessed are the pure in heart…
Blessed are the peacemakers…
Blessed are the persecuted…
Blessed are the insulted…
It’s almost antithetical to what we’ve come to believe, but ‘blessed’ seems to be more of what we are in a state of lack than one of plenty. It’s more about what we are when we give than when we receive. Nowhere does Jesus say, ‘Blessed are you if you cop that new Porsche.’ Instead He says, ‘Blessed are you when you come to the end of yourself, because it’s there that you find God, and become truly yourself’ – and I’ve never found an idea to be more true in my life. I have been blessed at every single point, regardless of what was going on.
Yes, God does bestow bless-ings in various forms, but to be ‘blessed’? Gosh, that is something I don’t think we have quite yet grasped the idea of.
The Greek word Jesus uses for ‘blessed’ in Matthew 5 is ‘Makarios‘. It means fortunate or happi-er. But Jesus is not describing the kind of happiness that comes from having everything we desire out of life – in fact, what he describes is the kind of happiness that comes in spite of circumstance. Makarios isn’t about circumstance. It’s not about subjective feelings or how my emotions sway at any given moment due to what is happening around me. These statements Jesus makes are not requirements for outsiders trying to get in with God, or independent truths that anyone can add to their lives. These are not feel-good sayings to live by, and they are not a set of ethical norms to live by. The Beatitudes are “an objective reality as a result of a divine act” – God become man – and are true not because they reflect any common sense (in fact they defy it). No, they are truths dependent on the speaker, and true based off of the authority of the one who speaks them.
And by extension, if we call ourselves Children of God, and Jesus is our Lord and Master, then we should be able to have the kind of happiness he speaks of every day of our lives.
Five years ago I was an unemployed graduate with no idea what the heck she wanted to do with her life. I won’t even delve into the long depressing season in depth, but if you have ever been on the hunt for a job, you know the struggle.
It got to a point where I needed to eat more than I needed to figure it out, so I got a job, and I spent the next three years of my life in a windowless office essentially pushing papers, and not exactly sure what I was doing there or where I was headed next.
Those three years were perhaps the hardest and longest years of my life. Everything seemed so stagnant and immoveable. And oh, did people point it out to me. They told me I was working below my potential, and that I was lazy because I wasn’t ‘doing better for myself’ (in not the kindest words). And man, does people questioning your worth make you question your self-worth! It wasn’t long before I hit rock-bottom depression. My days all seemed to mesh together without meaning. I tried to escape that place anyway I could, because I began to believe that it wasn’t where I was supposed to be or where I belonged. But no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t seem to actually get out.
And you know what? I thank God I didn’t. Because those three years in hindsight were the best three years of my life to date.
It was in those three years that I hit rock bottom, stopped trusting in myself, and began trusting in Christ. It’s in those three years when I started Ms. Understood Woman, a blog that blossomed into what you’re reading now – Slayed & Saved. It’s in those three years that God used me heavily in my church, serving and working with young students and helping them find Christ. In those three years God used me as a vessel to pour out into so many lives, known and unknown. It’s in those three years that God brought some of the single most amazing people, friends and confidants into my life. I went from having no one, to having so many beautiful people who blessed me in so many different ways – and rarely material-wise. In those three years I had the most amazing boss – the kind who would close her door and pray with you, or simply walk into your office, drop her iPad on your desk, hit play on a Travis Greene song, and walk right back out.
In that season that seemed to be the most stagnant when it came to any sort of forward progression, I was more blessed than I could have ever imagined or even begin to hope for. My cup ran over and I couldn’t even hope to hold it all in.
Yes, I may have been in a box of an office without windows pushing papers, creating schedules, and making tallies, but what God was doing IN me while I was in that box? How He was preparing me? The values He was instilling in me? What He taught me about Himself and about how He wired me? Priceless. There’s a reason the Bible tells us not to despise small beginnings – because it’s in the small beginnings where God equips and prepares what is IN you to handle what He wants to put ON you. And turns out that where I was was exactly where I needed to be, and what I was doing was exactly what I needed to be doing. When I stopped listening to what others expected of me, and started tuning in to what God required of me, everything began to fall into place, and the vision became so clear.
All in all, I was blessed right where I was, regardless of circumstance. And even though things and seasons have changed, I do not at all despise having lived through it, because it was through it that I cam to know who I was, and how that wasn’t dependent on circumstance.
I’ve spoken to so many people over the years who feel like they’re lacking or not AS blessed because they’re not where they want to be or because things aren’t working out the way they think that they should. But just think back and tell me one time where anything ever went exactly as you planned it to.
Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
Point is, don’t think that your apparent lack or situation, whatever it may be, translates into the absence of God’s blessings or a blessed life. Take it from Abraham – He was as blessed when He was struggle boy Abram as he was when he was wealthy and prosperous. God named him ‘Father of Many Nations’ long before he ever had a child of his own. Blessed was who he was because it was who God said He was, not because of what He did or didn’t have at any given time.
Don’t think that because things aren’t going according to YOUR plan or YOUR schedule that there isn’t A plan and A schedule, and that everything isn’t already going exactly as it should be. When you have God in your corner, all of creation – on earth and above it – is constantly working things out for your good.
Don’t despair because you just can’t see it. You have to have faith – the substance of things hoped for, and the assurance of things not [yet] seen – and trust that God can and will do what He says, and that you are blessed, right where you are.
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. James 1:2-4
In what ways is God using the season you’re currently in for your good? In what areas can you begin to see your life through God’s perspective, so you can tap into the kind of happiness He has for you that defies circumstance?