I love the look of all the farmhouse lettered signs- the weathered wood, the scrolled cursive and imperfect typeset, the sweet sayings.  They feel simple, conjuring up welcoming feelings of home.  I have one or two, but there is always one that makes me pause.  It is the sign that simply says, “Blessed”.  The same momentary sinking happens when I see that word with a hashtag underneath a perfect family photo or a new car.  I cringe a little each time.  Somehow that word, used in certain situations, feels unclean, stripped of its intent.  Yet I believe in blessings.  I believe that God wants to bless his children.  So I suppose I should attempt to explain….

I feel blessed.  I have healthy children, a nice home, a job I enjoy, and other sundry items to list at the Thanksgiving table.  I also have unanswered cardiac issues.  My husband was recently diagnosed bipolar.  I ran over one of our kittens last week.  My savings is at an all-time low.  Do these events and items make me feel less blessed?  No.  I still feel blessed.  Can I hashtag a picture of my smiling 7-year-old holding up a sweet note to Mommy to describe that I am blessed?  Maybe.  Can I hashtag a picture of the tiny kitten grave Nick had to dig for Clover last week?  Maybe.  You see, for me, blessings are not dependent on situations.  I am blessed to know that whatever I face,God is with me.  I know when my bank account hovers near zero, I am blessed to have assurance that my future is secure.  I can quote Philippians 4:11-13 to myself, I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Somewhere in the social media world, #blessed seems to suggest that when life is great and we look good, we are garnering some special favor from God.  And I wonder what a friend recently diagnosed with a disease or an acquaintance suffering through a difficult divorce feels about God’s blessings.  When I am struggling, is God blessing me less?  Or worse- punishing me?  In my simplest, non-theological answer, I believe not.  God wants the best for me, for us, but we are fallen people in a fallen world.  His blessing for us as His followers is assurance, comfort, and strength.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18 reminds me to “not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  That is the message I want to give to the world, not the idea that I have garnered supernatural favor through some strength or power of my own, or worse, through a perfectly posed, hashtagged portrait of my life.

If #blessed becomes my status symbol, my shout-out to God that life is awesome right now, I am selling short my life with Jesus as just another “think positive” message among the throng of false happiness messages we receive every day.  I am blessed every day.  At Thanksgiving,  we focus on gratitude and abundance, and we see our many blessings and are thankful.  But if you are struggling, if it is difficult to find material or health or relational blessings this year, I urge you to consider that your blessing may be the strength God gives you to endure and the peace, love, and joy you can find in Him despite your circumstance.  

John 16:33 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.