Are You Blessed?
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
Traveling for a living offers interesting unplanned opportunities to strike up conversations. I was recently on a flight from Austin to New York when my seat mate, an elderly gentleman dressed in an elegant suit asked how I was doing as I took my seat. I replied with my usual “excellent, thank you, and how are you?”
He responded with a phrase I’ve heard a lot lately. “Blessed,” he answered with a smile. His reply made me think about what it means to be “blessed,” and how I viewed myself.
Have you ever asked yourself what someone means when they say they’re “blessed?” Do they mean in a literal sense, that God has blessed them? Or is it a backhand way of gently boasting about how well their lives are going while trying to sound humble?
Feeling “blessed” seems to be popular these days. Everywhere you look on social media, people toss out the word with its obligatory hashtag: #blessed is everywhere.
As Christians, many of us use that term often. We pray around the dinner table at night or in small groups that God will bless our family. We attribute gifts we see as undeserved to “God’s blessings.” We speak of ministry efforts being blessed.
But what does “being blessed” really mean? What can we read from scripture to understand the real meaning of God’s blessing?
Is a Blessed Life the Same as the Good Life?
For believers, is a blessed life always the same thing as a successful life? Some people would say “Yes!” This may be in part based on an interpretation of the Old Testament that held worldly possessions as a sign of God’s blessing. We read of Jacob’s prosperity in Genesis 30:43.
In other examples, God gave material wealth to Abraham (Genesis 13:1-7), Isaac (Genesis 26:12-14), Joseph (Genesis 39:2-6), Solomon (1 Kings 3:13), and Job (Job 42:10-17) because He approved of them. He promised the Israelites He would reward them materially for faithful financial giving (Deuteronomy 15:10; Proverbs 3:9-10; Malachi 3:8-12).
Is material abundance the modern Christian version of being blessed? If we enjoy a loving marriage, obedient children, a healthy body, a successful career, trusted friends, financial abundance — does this mean we are “blessed” in the way God sees us as being blessed?
In my experience, material wealth often leads people away from thanking and praising God who is the source of all things, but leads them to feel self-sufficient, perhaps proud. Maybe a bit smug and self-righteous. They have no need to cry out to God for deliverance, their lives are already in order. They don’t need to trust in God, they can rust in themselves.
God’s Richest Blessings Sometimes Come in Times of Need
Let’s be honest: earthly “blessings” like abundance and wealth are temporary. A job can suddenly be lost, the stock market can wipe out our life’s savings, a marriage can be betrayed, a child can rebel and turn away from us, disease can rob us of our health. Indeed, Job’s material wealth was stripped away in one fateful day. Our lives can fall apart, our dreams shattered.
Where do we turn in times like this? Do we fall on our knees and deepen our prayer lives? Do we dive into the Bible to find more examples of God’s promises?
For many, our desire for God is greatly fueled by our needs. And it is in the areas of loss where we feel our need most intensely. Yet while these trials may not be “blessings” in themselves, they can be channels for them!
And yet, in the midst of painful events, I have experienced God’s richest blessings. A stronger faith than I had experienced before. A deeper love than I had ever known. A more intimate walk than I could explain. My trials grounded my faith in ways that prosperity and abundance never could. And they taught me to always come to God in gratitude, rather than only in petition. Even when it hurts, I praise and thank Him.
What Jesus’ Gospel Tells Us About Blessings
The New Testament has over 100 references with the words bless, blessing, or blessed. Would it surprise you to learn that none of these connects “being blessed” with having material prosperity?
Consider these passages:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit. . . Blessed are those who mourn . . . Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake . . . Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:3–4, Matthew 5:10-11).
“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28)
Jesus’ brother writes in James 1:12 “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
And John, quoting the words of the Living Christ writes in Revelation 14:13 “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”
In all the New Testament, there is not a hint of material prosperity or perfect circumstances that equal God’s blessings. On the contrary, blessing is typically connected with either poverty and trial or the spiritual benefits of being joined by faith to Jesus, anything that draws us closer to Jesus.
God’s Meaning of Being Blessed
Times of need can transform us. While they sometimes unravel us, they can also push us to a deeper life with God than we ever thought possible. They make us rest in God alone. Not what we can do or achieve for Him. And not what He can do or achieve for us.
In pain and loss, we long for God’s Presence. We search our hearts to know that God is for us and with us and in us. Successful families, financial abundance, and good health are all wonderful gifts we can thank God for, but they are not His greatest blessings. They may make us delight, not in God, but in His gifts.
God’s greatest blessing always rests in God Himself. When we have that, we are truly #blessed.
May God continuously lead your path.