A Blessing for the New Year (Part One)

What is a blessing? Probably the most common understanding or usage is in reference to something that brings prosperity and success. It is a concept that we use quite often, especially when we need or desire something from God. We simply ask for God’s blessing (which in our minds means our life should work out the way we want) and then wait for things to unfold the way we desire. If it does, then we are happy. if it doesn’t then we get disappointed or angry with God, as if God has somehow let us down by not giving us what we want. But I was wondering the other day “Is this really how a blessing from God works?” If everything is going well in my life then I am blessed by God. And if everything is dysfunctional and broken then I am cursed by God? This kind of thinking is actually behind many of our beliefs and customs, especially as we look back at the previous year or forward to the next.

The most striking explanation of a blessing from God in the Bible comes from the Sermon on the Mount. This is when Jesus proclaims blessed are the poor in spirit, the heartbroken, the meek, and those who mourn. These are hardly the happy circumstances that fit our common understanding of blessed. In fact it seems like these people are not blessed at all. These words from Jesus undermine what we usually describe as a blessed life. So what then is a blessing and how do I experience one?

Maybe the best way to understand a blessing from God is to realize that the thing that God wants for us most is to experience God in the community of others (as opposed to a financial windfall that may lead us away from God and into a selfish lifestyle). A real blessing then is not something that allows us to live independently on our own, but instead something that helps us to become the people God designed us to be. God’s blessings look more like this. I know a God who gives hope to the hopeless. I know a God who loves the unlovable. I know a God who comforts the sorrowful. As God blesses me God then empowers me to be a blessing to others in the same way. This highlights a basic truth of God’s blessings. Rarely are they for our own personal benefit. God usually sets us up so that the blessings flow through us. Sometimes we are too inward focused to see the blessings that God is offering us and thus miss out.

(Part II: to be continued in the next summit)

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