Counting Blessings – Reflection for 2 FEB 2020
As Jesus begins his teaching to the disciples, he lists a series of blessings. The blessing of the kingdom of heaven on those who are poor in spirit, the blessing of comfort for those who mourn, the blessing of a rich inheritance for the meek, the blessing of righteousness for those who earnestly desire it, the blessing of mercy for those who are merciful, the blessing of the presence and intimacy with God for those who cultivate the purity of their own heart and peace among the people around them, and the blessing of eternal reward for those who are persecuted.
These blessings are undeniably desirable, but the circumstances that surround them are probably not high on our wish list. In fact, we often avoid them, deny them, or complain when we find ourselves in these circumstances. Sometimes we may even blame others or ourselves for the very circumstances in which we might encounter true blessing. I wonder how often we miss the blessing that God intends for us because we would rather avoid the circumstances that prepare us to receive the fullness of the gift. For example, when we refuse to mourn and cry out in lament, we also avoid the comfort of God in the depths of our sorrow.
What if instead we cultivated the habit of noticing blessing? This habit is much easier to develop when our circumstances are less uncomfortable. There are a number of practices that can open our eyes to blessings that we might miss in our normal, everyday circumstances. The practice of acknowledging and receiving the blessing of food with each meal is an easy place to start. The practice of a gratitude journal or other form of looking prayerfully at the day and seeing where we recognized the goodness of God.
Once we have become comfortable with these practices, we can add a level of difficulty and search for blessings in less desirable circumstances. We might see the blessing of a new day when the alarm goes off. We might see the blessing of family and community as we go about our chores. We might look back on the undesirable parts of our day and prayerfully ask God, “Where was your gift in this?”
As we cultivate the habit of noticing our blessings in the good and bad of each day, when we find ourselves in extraordinary circumstances, poor in spirit, disappointed and discouraged, meek, hungry, mourning, mired in conflict and ugliness, we can begin to look for the gift that God has for us even in these times.