I'm not sure when this thought hit me--but it was in the last month or so. One of those things that has niggled and wiggled around in my head and then burst into realization during a sermon in church one week.
I'd been wondering about blessings . . . and if we really know how to identify them.
Living as we do in a prosperous, rich country, we tend to think of things as blessings, don't we? We're blessed to have a nice house . . . a car . . . a paycheck. We're blessed to have insurance . . . college savings accounts . . . and closets bursting with clothes. We're blessed, we think, to have all we need.
But what if we're not?
Let me be clear from the start--I'm not saying these things aren't blessings, period, end of story. They could be. But I am saying this: I don't think they are always blessings.
Why? Because a blessing shouldn't ever get between us and God--and all too often, our possessions do. All too often we focus more on finding that new set of curtains or bookshelf or new car than we do on Him. All too often we give to others, offer our service or money, only after we've met our "needs." But is that what the Lord instructs? Or are we to give Him our first fruits? Or our all?
Yet so many times we heard people say, "Thank you, Lord, for giving me ________ [insert possession here]."
This has made the thought wiggle and niggle with increasing frequency. Yes, I think God does help us get the things we need, absolutely. The things that will aid us in our walk with Him, the things that will help us help others. I do fully believe that it was a gift from God when our friends with a calling to hospitality found a great deal on a big house, which they frequently opened up to visitors and missionaries.
Yes, I think it's a gift from God when the funds come in to buy a new laptop that allows a writer or blogger to continue their ministry with words.
Yes, I absolutely think it's a gift from God to find a dependable car at a good price so we can get where He wants us to go.
But for every one of those clear blessings, how many murky ones have we seen? I can't count them. And I certainly can't judge them in anyone's life but my own. But I think, in order to keep them straight, I need to give myself a new definition of blessing.
Blessings aren't the things God gives us--
they're whatever brings us closer to Him.
Does my house bring me closer to Him or get in the way? My car? My clothes? My bank account? Does air conditioning make me a better Christian? Does my full pantry?
Does heartache? Does loss? Does having to scrounge around for dollars enough to cover an expense? Does needing to lean on Him in hard times because my own strength isn't enough?
Sheds a different light on things, doesn't it? That sometimes, those things we thank Him for might not be the real blessings in our lives at all (though sometimes they certainly are). But the real blessings might be the hard parts. The valleys. The days of darkness. Because those are the things that make us curl up in the lap of our God and cling to Him as our Father.
There are always going to be things we need, things He gives us. Yes. Absolutely. But there are also so very many things that are just that--things. And we need to be careful about how we look on those--as what we ought to be striving to possess . . . or as mere objects that litter our lives.
Remembering always that the real gift, the most valuable is the eternal. Is Him and His salvation. That is the dearest, most precious, most expensive thing in this world--it cost Jesus His life! So if that is the best thing, the thing we ought to guard and yet share, what is the rest? Nothing.
Yet we offer people God freely--because it cost us nothing--and hoard our belongings. We've got it all backwards, my friends. And until we realize it . . . well, then I'm going to stick with my new epiphany. These things around me aren't always a blessing. And that's why sometimes God has to take them away from us.
That isn't God removing His blessing. That's God removing a curse we'd been clinging to.
The biggest blessing is something He'll never take away, ever. Him.