He who has God and everything has no more than he who has God alone. – C.S. Lewis
One of my favorite Christian songs is Blessings by Laura Story. It is a powerful song. If you aren’t familiar with it, I encourage you to listen before reading on.
Powerful but disturbing
It truly is a powerful song, and yet it is disturbing too, because it messes with my understanding of what blessings truly are. Particularly in America we equate blessings with health, great times with friends and family, a good job, and most often with prosperity. And there is no question those things are blessings, but to stop there is a shallow understanding of blessings.
The story behind the song
In 2004 Chris Tomlin recorded Laura’s song “Indescribable” which became a #1 hit on the Christian music charts. The next year she married and took a job in worship and women’s ministries at a 4,000 member church in Atlanta. By most people’s definitions she was very blessed. But then in 2006 her husband was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with a brain tumor. He developed meningitis following the surgery and spent months in recovery. While he survived, he still struggles with vision and memory issues that never fully recovered. This song was born out of those experiences.
While they prayed for healing throughout and believed that God could fully restore Martin, God never answered those prayers in the way they had hoped. But what they found was a deeper understanding of God’s blessings. Laura wrote:
What if Your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise
Back to financial matters
Great story, Bob. Very touching. But this is a financial blog.
Well, I think there is probably no area of our lives where the concept of blessings is more misunderstood than in financial matters.
There is a very popular strain of Christian thought these days that teaches that God wants you to be successful. If you are truly following God, he will bless you with abundant health and prosperity. After all God loves you, right? So if you are following him, he will bless you beyond your wildest dreams. The unspoken (or many times spoken) flip side to this is if you are struggling in financial matters you must not have enough faith.
Personally, I believe this is a wrong teaching that has done much damage to the work of Christ.
The danger of “blessings”
In a larger sense though I think this is why Jesus spent so much time talking about financial matters. He actually spoke about money more than heaven and hell combined.
Jesus warned that you cannot serve both God and money. He also indicated that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for the rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. (Though that is followed by Jesus saying with man this is impossible but with God all things are possible.)
Why did Jesus say these things? The danger of financial blessings is that we start to rely on ourselves. When life seems good, we find we don’t need God so much. Perhaps not consciously, but slowly we start to drift.
The point is not that riches are evil. Money is neither evil nor good. It is a piece of paper. The point is that the blessings of wealth can so easily become our “saviour”. We trust those riches instead of the One who is the source of all our blessings.
But what if I don’t feel so blessed?
There is another danger to our shallow view of blessings. What happens when things don’t work out as planned?
- The boss taps you on the shoulder and says he needs to see you in his office.
- You were doing well until your child got sick. Now you are facing a pile of unopened medical bills on the table that seem to provide a cruel sucker punch to a heart filled with fear for your child’s well being.
- Life seemed good until your spouse walked in and announced he wanted a divorce. Now you wonder how you will make it on your own.
- You went into business with a friend, but when things got tough he skipped out on you and left you holding the bag.
- Or maybe life has just always been hard for you financially. You struggle for every dollar you earn and you wonder when you look at those for whom it seems to come so easy.
Where is faith when God seems silent? You pray for relief and yet those prayers don’t seem to be answered.
When blessings come in ways I do not want
This brings me back to Laura’s song and why I find it so beautiful and yet so disruptive to my way of thought. I don’t want God’s blessings to come to me in the rain. I want sunshine and good times. And yet as I look back on my life I often find the most difficult times were also the times I grew closest to God. When I had nowhere else to turn I found that He was beside me all the way.
When I have faced those difficulties, sometimes God has answered my prayers for relief. But sometimes He did answer them, just not how or when I expected Him to. And some of those prayers I am still praying. Perhaps God will answer them. Perhaps He will simply say my grace is sufficient for you and it will be enough for Me to walk beside you through that storm.
A final blessing
There is another blessing that I think comes as we face the storms of life. One of the last lines of the song is:
What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
The world we live in is broken, but the good news is the world that we live in is only temporary.
So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 The Message
In the end when these struggles draw us closer to God they also remind us that this world is not our home. He is preparing a place for us where he says he will wipe every tear from our eyes. After a few moments in that place, I believe I really will look back on the struggles I faced here on earth as blessings because they deepened the relationship with the One who has brought me to live in His presence for all eternity.
A new perspective on blessings
So where does that leave me? In my head, I know the difficulties I face are really blessings through the rain of life. But in my heart I still wish for sunshine. But as each day goes by I learn that those rainy blessings really are changing my heart and helping me to learn to trust the One who is always enough.