When I babysat for a family of four as a teenager, the worst and best part of the evening was bedtime. It was the worst for obvious reasons (elaborate stalling techniques, skirmishes over which bedtime story we’d read, and the usual accusations of “You’re not the boss of me”).
But my favorite part was prayer time just before bed. One by one the kids would go through the litany of people they loved, asking God to bless each one: “Please bless Mommy and Daddy, bless Nana and Grandpa, bless Brother and Sister, bless Baby Doll and my Beanie Babies.” All those blessings may have been part of the kids’ grander stalling scheme, but it was charming nonetheless.
I like to think my prayer life has progressed a bit beyond asking God to bless a laundry list of people, but I confess I still do a similar grown-up version, asking God to bless the people I love with health, happiness, security, steady jobs, good relationships. For smooth sailing, really.
Our version of the Beatitudes—of what it means to be blessed—would probably go something like this:
Blessed are those with enough money.
Blessed are those who are happy.
Blessed are the confident.
Blessed are those who stand up for their rights.
Blessed are those without major problems to speak of.
But when Jesus came, he flipped everything upside down. His description of true blessing runs exactly opposite of what we’d expect:
Blessed are the poor…
Blessed are those who mourn…
Blessed are the humble…
Blessed are the merciful…
Blessed are those who are persecuted…
Jesus sees our troubles and longings here on earth, and he cares about those things. But he knows those surface-level concerns aren’t our deepest needs. While we focus on the here and now, he is looking at the eternal. He has his eye on who we’re becoming.
I love the words to Laura Story’s song “Blessings.” She poses the question, What if the trials we face are really God’s best blessings?
We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things…
What if the trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise?
Thank you, Lord, for loving us too much to give us merely what we ask for. Bless us, yes, but bless us with your blessings, not the watered down version we think we want.
I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.