I see and hear the word “blessings” all the time… I see people pointing out their blessings in baby announcements, Christmas cards, and home decor. I hear people discussing their blessings in conversations and on facebook. And usually what I hear are people saying things like they were blessed with good health this year, blessed with their satisfying job, blessed with their home, or blessed with their children. But every time I hear someone talk about blessings, I wonder if this word really means what everyone in our society thinks it means.
I understand blessings to be favors from God that he has bestowed upon someone. And I think that a lot of people I know (and let’s be honest, probably most of America) would probably agree with that definition.
But it’s not the definition that gives me pause; it’s the way our society currently identifies blessings… I think that the way we currently identify and discuss blessings can be alienating and hurtful, and I believe that we can do better.
In general, when our society thinks of blessings, we think of our good fortunes — good health, sturdy and warm homes, a steady job, financial success, our families and friends… and basically all of the wonderful things that make our lives easy and joyful. But if these are truly blessings, then what does it mean for the people who live in poverty or with disease or in a war zone? Doesn’t God love them too? Why isn’t he showing them these favors?
In regards to infertility, I am told on bumper stickers, commercials, at church services, and in conversations that children are a blessing from God, and even that children are God’s greatest blessing. If this is the case, then obviously God does not favor Matt and me. Or anyone in my support group. Or anyone else out there struggling with infertility and pregnancy loss. And this is so hurtful. Being told repeatedly in our society that children are a blessing makes me feel like I have done something wrong and am being punished with my childlessness.
But this is wrong. My infertility and my lost pregnancy are not punishments, and someone else’s child is not their reward.
The things that happen in our lives are mysterious and strange, and in the end none of us know why things happen. But if we pretend to know what’s going on and count our good fortunes among our blessings, it implies that some of us are more favored by God than others. That some of us are more worthy of having our prayers answered than others. But that’s not the case.
Unless I’ve read the Bible wrong, I understand that God’s blessing is to make us holy, and that his greatest blessing was his son Jesus. You know, the one who saved us from all sins and wiped the slate clean for us. He showed us love, and gave us forgiveness and hope. In the Bible the blessings that Jesus talks about are spiritual blessings, not blessings in the form of fortune, family, or good health. Therefore, children are not favors God has bestowed upon someone, and neither is success in business or school, nor wealth or good health.
I think many times when someone names something in their life as a blessing that isn’t a spiritual gift, they are intending to give God the glory, and possibly not considering the weight that the name carries. But I think we can fix this; we can do better. So I propose that we be more careful with the identification our blessings. I suggest that we say that we are grateful for our good fortunes and tangible things in our lives, and that we are blessed with our spiritual gifts. If we can more carefully identify and name our blessings, while remaining grateful for the other things in our lives, then we will be more compassionate and inclusive, and we might be able to make more meaningful connections with others. I believe we have the power to use our words carefully, and that we can spread love instead of hurt.
If we want to say we’re blessed, let’s use it in reference to our spiritual blessings — things like forgiveness and hope. When we count our blessings, let’s count the ways we can share love and peace in our world.
If we want to express gratitude for the things in our life that bring us joy, let’s do just that. For our partners, families, friends, pets, homes, health, and success; for music, books, and flowers; for mountains, oceans, deserts, and plains; for food and drink; for being alive; for anything and everything that makes us glad — let’s say we’re grateful and give thanks.
For further reading, I suggest:
- The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying — I think the title is a little click-baity, but I do think the post is good. This writer gives a wonderful explanation for why we should stop saying we’re blessed. He calls out material fortunes, but I draw the same conclusions for pretty much anything else in life that we might desire. As he says, God is not a “wish granting fairy” who favors us with our wishes come true.
- This page is helpful for a quick refresher on blessings in the Bible: http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/blessing/
- In regards to infertility, this post that I shared on my Recommended Reading post does a nice job (and it’s funny) of summarizing how infertility is surrounded by weird, outdated beliefs.