I have always considered myself blessed:
I grew up in a great family that loved me and took care of me…
I did extremely well in school and have had many good friends…
My professional career has been very successful and rewarding…
I married a beautiful and wise woman and had two strong and smart boys…
My health has been pretty good…
And I have enjoyed a great relationship with God throughout the years.
Blessed. Very blessed.
In the last few years, though, some painful things happened. They have been like swords to the heart.
Dreams were shattered.
Those things occupy a large space in my brain, and it seems that I have focused on them more and more, becoming deeply sad.
In the last few days I have been sending messages to my friends wishing a Merry Christmas and a blessed 2017.
Now I stopped to think about 2016, and suddenly I questioned myself: Was it a blessed year for me?
Immediately my mind wanders to what it means to be blessed. Is it to have good health? A family? A job? A house? Is it to have everything go our way? Is it to have no problems?
Last Sunday when we were reading about Jesus’ birth I read the verse where Mary is called “blessed”.
Yes, she had the tremendous privilege of giving birth to the Son of God. She held the Messiah in her arms. She lived with Him for 33 years, heard his teaching, and saw His miracles.
But she also saw Him being rejected, humiliated, beaten and being put on a cross. I can hardly imagine the pain she felt when she was at the feet of the cross watching her son die.
Was the apostle Paul a blessed man? He had a personal encounter with the Lord. He had a great relationship with God. But also he was stoned, thrown in prison, and killed for his faith.
I could keep on going, but I believe these examples support the question above: What does it mean to be blessed? Yes, the short list above are for sure valid examples of blessings that we can have, but I find no guarantees in the Bible that our lives will only have good moments.
So, what is it then?
When Peter is writing to the Christians that are being persecuted by the Roman Empire, he tells them that when they are suffering for the name of Christ they are blessed (suffering = blessings ??).
He then explains why: “for the spirit of glory and of God rests on you”.
Or if we go to James we find: “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.”
I know this post is already fairly long, but I could not leave out II Corinthians 4: 7-11:
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed… so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body”
In other words, we may have hard times, and we may receive great blessings in our life here (and we do receive more than we even notice), but the real blessing that is promised to us is the relationship with the Creator of the Universe, the opportunity to have His Spirit in us, and the assurance that we will be in His presence forever.
That has to be our focus. The rest is bonus.
Merry Christmas and a blessed 2017!