Truly Blessed

“Blessed” is a familiar — even overused — word in Christian circles. For most of us, hearing this word implies pleasant situations and comfort. I can recall many such blessings, times when my circumstances were good, my heart felt joyful, my mind was thankful, and my outlook was positive.

But that does not mean we are not blessed — or we are missing far more life — in the difficult times we face. In fact, I can think of many times I felt MORE blessed while encountering difficulties. When I felt alone, hopeless and helpless, scared, or overwhelmed and reached out to God, He met me right where I was and gave me exactly what I needed. I was blessed to experience Him in a new way, to understand Him better, or to realize where I had a wrong impression of Him or my situation. The memories of those “hardship blessings” are clearer than most of the sunny moments I have experienced. One psalm states it this way:

It was good for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn your decrees. (Psalm 119:71, NIV)

I have learned much more about God — and why following His ways is where I will be truly blessed — during hard times than good ones. And while those lessons were painful, they are precious to me and have brought me far more life!

The Greek word translated “blessed” throughout the New Testament means happy. This probably means different things to different people, based on personality. I think of “happy” as an emotional optimism and steadiness that is rooted in something more solid than our circumstances. Look at some of the situations where God instructs us to be happy (blessed):

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4, NIV)

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10, NIV)

Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. (Luke 6:22, NIV)

Blessed are those who have not seen [Jesus] and yet have believed. (John 20:29, NIV)

…It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35, NIV)

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12, NIV)

Even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. (I Peter 3:14, NIV)

Mourning, Persecution. Hate. Exclusion. Insults. Rejection. Emptying yourself. Trials. Suffering. We may not enter these situations feeling happy, but each offers the opportunity for blessing. Some blessings are immediate while others come later. It is a blessing to find comfort in Christ. It is a blessing to inherit the kingdom of heaven. It is a blessing to belong to Christ. We are happy when we can meet needs for others. We will be happy when we receive the crown of life. We are happy with a clear conscience before God about our choices.

How do we find the blessing in these hard things? Reread the verses and note that each one points us back to the Lord. He comforts us. He gives us His kingdom. He offers us a relationship. He provides for us. He defines and rewards righteousness. The blessing of far more life rests on our connection to the Lord. Whatever we face in life, we are blessed to face it with the Creator of the Universe and Lover of our Soul living within us.

Recognizing blessings depends on our perspective, not our circumstances. Circumstances can change quickly; death, betrayal, financial loss, natural disaster, and so much more can take away the people, things, and situations that we count as blessings. But when we base our happiness on what has eternal value — knowing God, growing in Christlikeness, and sharing His love with others — we can look beyond our situation to the Blesser, who is constantly present and available to us. Changing our perspective brings happiness, even in the middle of difficulties. One of my favorite blessings is recorded in Romans 8:

 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39, NIV)

We are blessed through security in God’s love, no matter what we face in this life!

When we are in hard situations where comforts and pleasures are stripped away, we may find ourselves thinking, “Well, at least I can look forward to Heaven. I am happy that Jesus forgave my sins and accepted me into God’s family.” What we think of as our “last resort” blessing is actually our greatest blessing! Without a saving relationship with Christ, none of the other things that make us happy really matter! Even if this was the only blessing God offered, it would be enough. Jesus raised this question to His followers:

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Mark 8:36, NIV)

He asked this while prompting them to consider how they wanted to invest their lives. He challenged them to choose between worldly success and spiritual success. One may be more tempting in the short term, but the other will reap dividends for eternity. We are truly blessed through anything we experience with Christ.

Sisters,
When you hear (or say) something is a blessing, what does that mean?
Have you ever felt like you were missing out on blessings when you encountered difficulties?
What does happiness mean to you? When have you experienced happiness in Christ?
What blessing have you discovered DURING or AFTER something hard?
If you have accepted Christ as your Savior, thank God for the biggest and best blessing possible — far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Great joy!

Joyful. Happy. Blessed. Content. Satisfied. Glad. Delighted. Pleased. Cheerful. All of these words occur on the joy spectrum. We think of some as outward expresssions and others as internal responses, but all are aspects of joy. All forms of joy are indicators that we are walking in far more life.

When our children were little, my husband and I taught them to obey the instructions they were given quickly, completely, and cheerfully. Their attitude was as important as their actions. Sometimes cheerfulness came easy for them; preschoolers LOVE helping with “big people” tasks. Other times were challenging; in some situation neither they or us were naturally cheerful! It was important to us that they learned to work and follow their leaders in life joyfully.

Joy, in all its various forms, is important to God, too. It is a recurring theme in His word:

…This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10, NIV)

I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. (Ecclesiastes 3:12, NIV)

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8, NIV)

But godliness with contentment is great gain. (I Timothy 6:6, NIV)

After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied…(Isaiah 53:11, NIV)

But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful. (Psalm 68:3, NIV)

He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. (2 Samuel 22:20, NIV)

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:16, NIV)

…God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7, NIV)

But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. (Luke 2:10, NIV)

The last verse caught my attention this week. The angel could have prefaced the news of Jesus’ birth in many ways: it will give you hope; it will bring you peace; it will show you God’s love. But he focused on the GREAT JOY it would cause. The birth of most babies is a cause of great joy for family and friends. The birth of Jesus, however, was a cause of great joy for ALL the people because it offers far more life. The angel continues:

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  (Luke 2:11, NIV)

There are several reasons the birth of Jesus brings us great joy:

We have great joy — and far more life — because Jesus is our Savior. He rescued us from the penalty of our sin, which is separation from God now and forever.

…Our Savior, Christ Jesus…has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (2 Timothy 1:10, NIV)

We have great joy — and far more life — because Jesus is the Messiah. He is a descendant of King David who will establish an eternal kingdom:

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31, NIV)

…The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11:15, NIV)

We have great joy — and far more life — because Jesus is Lord. He is our ultimate master and ruler…forever.

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11, NIV)

But why do these names — Savior, Messiah, and Lord — bring us great joy and far more life? Because they reset our perspective. They remind us to lift our eyes from the everyday struggles of this life and remember the bigger picture. Because of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus we have the opportunity for far more life now and for all eternity. We have a Savior willing to rescue us from the consequences of our sin. We have a Messiah who will bring justice to the world. We have a Lord who will rule over His followers with goodness and righteousness for all eternity. Letting Jesus fill these roles in our life is indeed cause for great joy!

Great joy is not ignoring our problems, rather it is putting them in perspective. Whatever circumstances we face in this life, we can have far more life by choosing joy. We can choose joy because, through Jesus, our sins are forgiven, even when our circumstances tempt us to sin. We can choose joy because, through Jesus, justice and peace are coming, even though our circumstances are unjust. We can choose joy because, through Jesus, we will live in a perfect paradise forever, even though our current circumstances are far from perfect. Even Jesus chose to focus on His future joy when He faced the difficulty of crucifixion:

Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. (Hebrews 12:1-2, GNT)

Whatever you face today, face it with great joy — and far more life — in Jesus!

Sisters,
What word on the “spectrum” best describes your joy?
How does reflecting on Jesus’ life and purpose bring you great joy?
What circumstances challenge your joy?
Thankfulness helps us maintain and restore our joy. Choose far more life — and experience great joy — by taking a few moments to thank God for His work in and around you.
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso