If You've Ever Counted Your Blessing and Still Felt Sad

In no particular order….

Jesus, husband, kids, coffee, art, work, my kids happily playing on swings, warm weather, sunshine, the scent of lavender, big tall trees, a home, a car, puppy dog, friends that love me even though they know I’m a big mess, gardening, music…

These are a few of my favorite things - my favorite blessings to count when times are tough. Some days, the loveliness warms my heart and the blues just lift away and I’m ok. God is good.

But seriously, this scenario has played out for me as well:

I feel sad, I count my blessings, I still feel sad, I determine I’m super broken because it didn’t work, I decide it would be better to just stay in bed.

Sometimes we stab ourselves and each other with this accounting of blessings. Times are tough? Count your blessings! Ouch…. Why was there guilt there? Has that happened to you? Wasn’t it confusing? Did you feel bad for how ungrateful you are, rather than joy? Did you think you are required to be happy happy joy joy 100% of the time, no matter how hard the struggle?

Instead of just enjoying the grace of God’s amazing blessings, we use this handy survival tool as a way to pile on more guilt.

In Philippians, we find this passage: 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
— Philippians 4:8

This is solid advice, no doubt. Looking at whatever is lovely is a really good technique for seeing our life through the eyes of faith. It helps with perspective. As a designer I love love love to look for the lovely. I draw it, photograph it, paint it. Love it. Seeing good in life can be an important component of resilience. We see all the ways God has provided for us, so we know that we need not worry. God’s got this. It truly is solid wisdom for Christian living.

Like people tend to do, though, we make a royal mess of something lovely God has given us. Do we sometimes add up our blessings and rank ourselves against each other? Do we think that if we are really good at blessing accounting, sadness will go away and problems will disappear? Do we hope we have finally found the right behavioral formula to earthly joy? If someone is sad and wants to talk it out, do we assume they are weak in faith because they are struggling? That’s just not quite how it works.

At the very same time as we see all the beautiful things God has given us, we know this:

In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.
— John 16:33

If ever I’m tempted to think that I’m having trouble because I didn’t count my blessings, I remember this passage. Jesus promised trouble would happen, it isn’t a surprise or bad blessing accounting. This world is broken. Jesus overcame it, though. That’s where our joy is at. Joy and trouble coexist on earth. That’s why our feelings are a jumbled mess sometimes.

On a day when blessing counting is bringing me down, I turn to Romans 5. I can look at suffering and gifts in another way – and I just stand there rather than counting. I stand in grace. 

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
— Romans 5: 1-5

If a friend is suffering, it’s tempting to say, “Stop it!” Rather than assuming a shortfall in blessing counting, maybe we can look at Romans 5 together. Suffering – perseverance – character – hope. Standing in grace. I love that Romans 5 starts out with peace and standing in grace and then along side that goes through suffering and producing perseverance. Suffering is a HARD, and knowing we stand in grace while we go through it is real comfort.

Most of us suffer ugly. It isn’t such a lovely thing to look at on the outside. We’ve got the ugly cry going on and the dirty yoga pants and legos and cheerios everywhere. Hiding under the bed on a mama time-out, mascara all over our faces. Wiping our nose with toilet paper because Kleenex is an expensive luxury. Standing in grace, growing in character, having hope.

The world is broken, it hurts. Sometimes hurt is more complex than perspective alone can fix. Sometimes, healing takes time. Don’t feel bad about that. A good perspective from seeing blessings helps, but sometimes we need time to mourn. Other times, we may need to roll up our sleeves and fight battles. Or maybe we need to make peace through hard conversations, rather than keeping peace by pretending the storms aren’t real. Maybe we are just waiting and wondering if chronic pain will ever go away. Sometimes, it’s just complicated.

We wait for our Savior to heal our hearts and eventually bring us to our heavenly home – that’s the long term plan. Meanwhile, God’s pouring out his love in our hearts to get us through day to day. With all that perseverance and hope you’re gaining, you will have peace. You will wake up one day and realize God brought you through and it’s ok again. New seasons come.

I just want you to know, that if you have counted your blessings and still felt sad and struggled, you aren’t necessarily more broken than everyone else. Suffering isn’t a surprising thing. And in itself it is a blessing through which we gain hope. While you do it, you stand in grace – not contingent on your accounting skills. Grace is free – zero – easy math. 

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:7

Surrounded By Princesses

A month and a half ago, I was on spring break in Florida with three of my girlfriends. As part of our trip, we did what any mature, sophisticated college students would do and spent a day at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. 

 

Just as it’s name suggests, the park truly was magical. 

 

We rode a ferry boat to the park entrance, went on every ride we possibly could, maintained relatively positive attitudes despite the heat and exhaustion of a full day of being on our feet, and even met two princesses, Rapunzel and Tiana.

 

 

When we arrived back at our hotel, we all fell into a deeper sleep than Sleeping Beauty and awoke the next morning to drive back to West Palm Beach where we were staying. It just so happened to be International Women’s Day. As I drove - belting songs at the top of my lungs with the other girls - I couldn’t help but reflect on the incredible real-life princesses God has placed into my life.

 

I had spent the day before feeling like a little kid living her childhood princess dreams. 

 

I was jamming out in the car and laughing at ridiculous jokes with three daughters of the King. 

 

I was driving back to a household with a queen of a mom who lives a life that visibly displays Christ to all people, including her four little princesses. 

 

And these were only but a few of the strong, Christian women with whom God has surrounded me. 

 

Church members, teachers, lifelong friends, my grandma, my sister, my mom - so many women rushed through my mind as I truly thought about what it means to be a woman, but more importantly, what it means to be part of God’s royal family. 

 

Maybe International Women’s Day and feminism gets a bad rap amongst Christian circles. Often times, it rightly should. “Equality” for women has led to the belittlement of men, the legalization of a woman’s choice concerning not just her body but the body of her unborn child, and a distorted view on the special role and responsibilities that women hold. This is sin and the devil corrupting the world. 

 

We can’t deny that these things are evil and against God’s will.

 

However, the beauty of feminism and International Women’s Day is the acknowledgement that women are important and that we can make a difference in the world. As Christians, we know that our role as women is even greater than this narrow and worldly perspective. We know that God made each one of us unique. We know that He gave us different talents and abilities with which we can serve Him. We know that by the blood that His Son shed on the cross, we are crowned princesses and are heirs to His eternal kingdom.

 

If you’re at all like me, then you probably were taught about our Heavenly King by some of his Daughters.

 

I remember learning about Noah, Moses, and Elijah in Sunday School classes led by female members of my church. 

 

I remember late night talks with girlfriends in high school about trusting in God’s plan. 

 

I remember riding in the car with my mom as we talked about what it means to proudly wear the crown my Father has given to me.

 

These women let their royalty that Christ won for them show through their words and actions. Then and now, they are actively living lives of love and thankfulness for their King by serving others and sharing His message of salvation. As God’s princesses, we can do the same thing. 

 

Do not hide your crown. 

 

Don’t allow it to become dirty and lose its sparkle. 

 

Never take it off and become a servant to the world. 

 

Take some time today to reflect on the Christian princesses that God has placed into your life. Thank God for them and pray for them. Ask for strength from the Holy Spirit to proudly serve your King. Cling to the comfort in knowing that our heavenly kingdom awaits us where we will be united with our Almighty Majesty and his entire royal family. 

 

And, as always:

Let Your Crown Shine Today.

Rev. 3:11

The Most Regal Way to Travel

The Queen Mary

It was an unusual day in sunny Southern California. We were in Long Beach and planned a stroll along the jetty across from the Queen Mary, permanently docked for tours. She had been a magnificent ship, first launched in 1934, and according to Facebook, now provides “a unique glimpse into an era when steamships were the most regal way to travel.”

But it wasn’t the Queen Mary that caught my eye that afternoon. It was a young mother ahead of us. Like a human steamship herself, she clasped her tiny sons’ hands, and pushed forward around the walkway toward the parking lot, amid howls of protest.

From behind, we could not blame the boys for resisting. Weather-wise, it was far less than what we expected. Normally, Long Beach has near-perfect 70-degree weather. Today it was gray, cold, and sleet began to assault our faces.

Moving quickly together, we headed toward our destination, boys in toe with their mama. She was determined to lead us safely around the walkway. We trekked toward the car, heads down, pushing through the inconvenience of the uninvited shower.

Here is our view that day. The memory of it brings a smile to my face and a scriptural parallel to ponder.

Royal Ambassadors

These boys pictured, our grandsons, are now approaching their middle grade-school years. We are thankful for our daughter, who is persistent as a mom. While she does not bear a worldly title of royalty, in God’s eyes she is regal. By grace through faith, she carries the honored position of being in the royal priesthood of believers, one who shines her light for Jesus.

I smile because I can see a glimpse of that heavenly light reflecting off a crown, one I imagine is perched on her head. She’s a capable and caring wife and mother, raising her children to carry out their duties as kids of the King. They learn Bible stories, pray before meals, sing praises, worship regularly, and they listen to countless admonitions to be kind, to share, to forgive.

There’s immense joy in watching young mothers who are bringing up the next generation of royal ambassadors for Jesus. My heart is grateful as I think of how this training has played out in the family. Just a few years back, one of these little guys initiated an invitation to his grandpa to come to church and learn about Jesus.

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
— 2 Corinthians 5:20

Praise God! A small boy implored his grandpa, and the man’s relationship with the Savior has blossomed! A child, taught by mama to love the Lord, became God’s tool, walking in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul at age four.
 

Not So Royal Duties

So many times the tasks of being a mom, and especially a believing mom, are not glamorous or filled with publicity.

  • Who can count the myriad number of times moms watch for teachable moments and talk to their children about the Creator, the risen Savior, and the Spirit living in hearts?
  • Who knows the number of times mothers encourage prayers before meals?
  • Who sees the bone-weary look on a mom’s face as she tucks her children into bed with a bible story, a prayer and a song about Jesus?
  • Who hears the innumerable times her name is called out and she answers with love and kindness?

Only God knows and often only God sees. The task is frequently daunting, exhausting and thankless to be truthful. Most times, it takes a surreal kind of Godly strength to keep going.

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.
— 2 Corinthians 4:1

Rest assured, all mothers out there! Your faithful work to share God’s Word with little ones is not in vain. Keep walking your kids through the storms of life, full steam ahead, in full view of their heavenly destination. Remind them of their humble yet invaluable position as sons and daughters of the King. Teach them to perform their royal duties to honor their King, share him with others, and bring him glory!
 

A Unique Glimpse

Maybe you think my ponderings are a bit hokey. That's okay with me. Just try it anyway and you will see that by grooming ambassadors for God you will…

  • fulfill your own royal purpose.
  • put the Gospel on display.
  • dare to demonstrate to others “a unique glimpse into an era"… where Godly mothers are… "the most regal way to travel.”
     

Don’t give up on this journey. The final destination is worth the effort. In the end, we pray our children will all lay their crowns at the feet of Jesus!