In recent weeks, I have written about trusting God, taking a leap of faith, staying sane through it and dealing with worry. I have found myself wrestling with these aspects of the Christian life because of the challenges I encounter as I try to live out my faith. When we choose to follow God, there often is an expectation of God’s blessing. However, for some reason, it seems there is a misconception that God’s blessing is synonymous with an easy life. This is a delusion because so many of our biblical heroes lived lives which couldn’t be described as easy. In light of this, how do you know you are experiencing God’s blessing in your life? What does God’s blessing look like?
Like many, I grew up with the false paradigm that God’s blessing was measured by one’s material possessions and a life without troubles. Essentially, someone who was blessed couldn’t be poor and have an unenviable life. This paradigm also feeds the prosperity gospel phenomenon we see today, so many people flock to churches where they are told God will make them wealthy and any difficult situation is demonic. I remember in my childhood when politicians would have thanksgiving services for getting elected and throw lavish parties for their cohorts afterwards. These same men and women would go onto live corrupt lives yet people would still look at them as blessed.
What is the greater indication of God’s blessing? Is it wealth, fame and power, no trials or virtues like peace, joy, wisdom, integrity, humility, patience, self-control irrespective of circumstance? Do we ask God for these latter virtues as much as we do for material stuff? Take Solomon’s life for example, what was the greater blessing? [1 Kings 3:3-15] Was it the gift of wisdom or the gift of immense wealth? Given the choice, would you rather have Solomon’s wisdom or wealth? Which is more likely to draw you closer to God? How we understand blessing can either enhance or distract from our walk with God. It can also be a stumbling block when life doesn’t unfold as we expect because we may miss our apportioned blessing in search of something else.
I often wonder and write about Abraham because his life and faith fascinate me and forces me to question my own faith. Genesis 12 opens with God asking him to take a leap of faith: “The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” [Genesis 12:1-2]. Imagine you could have observed Abraham’s life in real-time for the next 100 years without knowing how his story would end. What would you have thought of him in light of this promise?
Here was a man who not only heard God’s call but he was assured of God’s blessing. He was wealthy and comfortable, yet he packed up his family and possessions at the age of 75 and became a nomad. He didn’t have an easy life, after waiting 86 years for an offspring, he waited a further 14 years to see the first sprout of the nation he was promised. Then another 60 years to see his grandchildren, by which time his wife had died. He did see Canaan but he never took possession of it in his lifetime. Isaac and Jacob, heirs to the same promise didn’t have it easy either. The same can be said of other Patriarchs like Joseph and Moses, who both experienced exile and other hardships.
Looking through the lens that equates God blessings to an easy life, these men could have been wrongly dismissed as not being blessed for vast periods in their lives. Yet, we read that in those barren periods, God’s hand was upon them. They learned the true meaning of faith as they went through the infernal crucible of life and came out the other side with an unshakeable assurance that God is. Their real blessing wasn’t their wealth or anything perishable and transient, their real blessing was truly knowing that a loving, covenant-keeping God who transcended their circumstance was faithful and always kept His promises. This blessing was the substance of the cake while everything else was just the icing. Knowing God dictated how they lived. This is why Abraham could offer up Isaac because He knew the God who had promised him descendants would keep that promise [Hebrews 11:19].
As the author of the book of Hebrews points out, Abraham’s focus was on something imperishable [Hebrews 11:10]. Jesus would later say that we should focus on accumulating heavenly treasures [Matthew 6:19-20]. If our focus is on earthly things, we pray and yearn for earthly things like money, fame, power, etc. We see these things as a measure of God’s blessings rather than transient resources to be used for God’s kingdom. A truly blessed person isn’t defined by their circumstance in life. Whether wealthy or poor, famous or obscure, powerful or uninfluential, healthy or sick, free or oppressed, the fruit of the Holy Spirit [Galatians 5:22-23] will be evident in such a life. Such a person lives by faith, rarely flustered by life and will not be found wanting by Jesus [Luke 18:8].
God doesn’t promise us an easy life, but He does promise to be with us throughout life, every step of the way. Ultimately, our greatest blessing is God revealing Himself to us. The more we allow the truth of that revelation to permeate every area of our lives, the more blessed we will be.