Bless. Blessing. Blessed.
Common words I hear and say a lot. Just walk the aisles of Hobby Lobby and you’ll see variations of this word on plaques, crafts, and home decor. (Only non-Christians use the word lucky 🙂)
Throughout this past year I’ve found myself pondering the words I say. Do I always say what I mean and mean what I say? Is my mouth filled with spiritual jargon or with heart-felt conversation?
Bless. Blessing. Blessed.
These thoughts beg me to evaluate my life and my words with the light of the Bible. Is it accurate to say that I am blessed when the marriage is blissful, the kids are behaving, my health is stellar, I’ve got friends a plenty, and the bills are paid with extra to spend on whatever I fancy?
I look at my life and see the hand of God very clearly. And yet in the down and out moments of life, I find myself looking at others and thinking, Wow, must be nice… they’ve got it better… they’ve got things put together… they have it so easy… they don’t seem to ever struggle… and so on. This is nothing but human reasoning; fleshly thinking.
I love it when thoughts like these consume my mind and then as I open the pages of Scripture, I see answers perhaps for the very first time.
What does it mean to be blessed?
While reading through the Book of Jeremiah, I came across the somewhat familiar verses in chapter 17. In verses 5-8 a contrast is given: those who are cursed and those who are blessed. Or, in other words, those who are miserable and those who are happy.
First, the Miserable Woman trusteth in man. (v. 5)
::: I like the old KJV because there is powerful meaning in every word,
including the suffix -eth which denotes a continual action :::
Trusting in man simply means putting your confidence in the wisdom of others. This includes godly people such as pastors, pastor’s wives, a godly friend or spouse, or even Christian books and authors.
Trusting in man is being spiritually spoon-fed. It’s a vicarious sort of trust. It negates any personal responsibly and places man in a God-like position. This doesn’t mean you should never seek godly counsel or stop going to church. But trusting in other man’s counsel alone is not the blessed life.
The Miserable Woman maketh flesh her arm. Our flesh represents our abilities, talents, looks, reputation (what people think of us), status (the people we know), possessions and wealth. The arm represents strength, confidence, and ability.
What if your ability to walk was taken away? What if your talents were taken away? What if you suffered injury and your good looks were taken away? Would a wayward child or unfaithful spouse change your perspective of God?
These examples cause me to think of the Christian singer and spokeswoman, Joni Eareckson. Before her conversion, she was active and full of life, ready to embark on a career of physical therapy. By the age of seventeen, she became a quadriplegic and after deep depression and despair, she turned her life over to God. She is one of the most happy, joyful women alive!
How about the beautiful songstress of the Sound of Music, Julie Andrews, when she lost her voice and had to undergo major surgery? I think of burn victims and how they’ll never recover from the physical damage and scars. Also, the hardship of a marred reputation… I’ve seen firsthand the burden on a woman who has a wayward child or an ungodly husband. These are the things that test our faith. Does it mean we are not blessed?
Lastly, the Miserable Woman’s heart departeth from the Lord. Our heart is made up of our emotions, desires, and will.
Departing from the Lord means turning toward the things of the world. [See: 1 John 2:16] The lust of the eyes and the flesh as well as the pride of life disguise themselves as the pursuit for riches, clothing, stuff, or in looking to boost our reputation, or increasing our self worth through health and beauty trends, and so on. Essentially, it’s wholeheartedly pursuing after what makes us feel good about ourselves.
Then, there is the Blessed Woman.
The Blessed Woman trusteth in the Lord. She leans the whole weight of her needs, cares, sins, and sorrows upon God. The blessed woman chooses the Lord as her object of trust.
The Blessed Woman hopes in the Lord. Hope is a feeling of expectation and trust. It’s a longing to see the promises and will of God in every situation of life, whether good or bad. (Romans 8:28)
Along with this contrast, there are two opposite outcomes as well…
The Miserable Woman is like a heath in the desert (v.6). She’s compared to an area of open uncultivated land with coarse grasses and scrubs. She cannot see when good cometh. She’s blinded to the grace of God in her life. She inhabits the parched places in the wilderness. Her habitat, or dwelling place is dry, thirsty, deserted, and barren or fruitless. She lives in a salt land and not inhabited. The salt that creates unbearable thirst and that seems to never get quenched!
The Miserable Woman succumbs to the enticement of more stuff, more trips to the mall, more rooms to decorate, more clothes and beauty products, more education, fancier, skinnier, happier, more, more, more!
She is the woman who chooses to trust in herself. And she unknowingly creates a salty, uninhabited land with an unquenchable thirst for more. Her expectation is continually frustrated. When others have a harvest of spiritual fruit, she has none.
This makes me think of the deception of artificial sweeteners, namely Diet Soda. These harmful chemicals contain neurotoxins that literally excite brain cells before killing them off! This feeling of excitement is so addicting that your brain actually craves more. Yet your thirst remains unquenched.
Whatever your niche may be, if it’s something only pertaining to this life, then the excitement will be but temporary, it will create a thirst for more, and in the end, will leave us miserable.
“The eyes of man are never full.”
HOWEVER, the Blessed Woman – she who trusts and hopes in the Lord – has a much happier existence! Verse eight gives a wonderful word picture: She is like a tree planted by the waters. She has an endless water supply and is thereby flourishing. She spreadeth out her roots by the river… her roots are firmly fixed on Christ. She shall not see when heat cometh. A well-watered, firmly rooted tree has no need to fear the heat, because the tree is getting nourishment from its roots. Likewise, when we’re rooted in Christ (trusting & hoping) we don’t experience fear or anxiety in the trials and hardships of life.
The picture continues to described the Blessed Woman as one who’s leaf shall be green. Green leaves indicate life, cheerfulness, and beauty to the eye of the beholder. She shall not be careful in the year of drought neither shall cease from yielding fruit. Only the Blessed Woman can produce the fruits of the Spirit because her source is in none other than the Lord Himself.
You Choose to be Cursed or Blessed.
The direction of a woman’s trust determines the whole cast of her life. Blessed or Cursed? Happy or Miserable?
We can alter our habitat. We can settle where we want to be rooted (tree by water or heath in desert).
The woman who chooses to trust in herself unknowingly creates a dry, always thirsty for more, spiritually-fruitless existence.
The woman who chooses to cast her whole self into the arms of God, forsakes herself as any source of trust and realizes that the Lord is her only source of help, she will soon discover that she is “planted by the river.” She is flourishing, secure, growing, confident, and successful in life!
But there’s one problem…
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (v. 9)
I’d never seen this familiar verse in this context before. Can our heart – our feelings, emotions, wishes, desires – deceive us into thinking we’re blessed?
We can view the grace of God in our lives… all those accomplishments, possessions, physical features or social status… and be deceived into thinking that those things are what make us blessed.
Is it possible for our hearts to deceive us into thinking that the trials of life are not the goodness and grace of God in our lives?
The Bible never communicates possessions and accomplishments as a blessing from God. They are simply the grace or unmerited favor of our wonderful God.
Even men like David and Solomon who were called blessed men in the Bible, were not called blessed because they had great wealth or position, although they certainly had both those things. They were blessed because they trusted and hoped in the Lord. And they experienced times of misery when their faith was misplaced.
Job was a man who found himself as low as man could possibly get. Yet at the end of the Book he speaks to God Almighty and understands his worth. This was after all his family, possessions, and health were taken away.
Mary, Jesus’s mother, was called “blessed of God,” yet we read nothing of her social status, the things she owned, her talents or physical beauty.
Lazarus was poor, Anna was a childless widow, and the Apostle Paul had a physical illness or limitation. But they knew the Lord and walked with Him. The things of this world were dim to their eyes. They were so blessed!
Ask yourself: Can I trust God with the situations I find myself in? Could this relationship problem, health or financial woe actually be a blessing from God? Are my pursuits centered around me or around Him? Have I deceived myself into thinking the graces of God (temporal things) are actually His spiritual blessings? Make a list of your blessings: are they things the Bible calls blessed?