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:
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:
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.
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.