We’ve invited three of our own to post on the blog from the prompt, “what does a blessed life look like?” We hope you enjoy their reflections and are driven to reflect on God’s goodness to you as well. Thanks for reading.
I was in a grocery store recently, idling in the check-out line with my chewing gum, refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough, and—owing to the legacy of B.F. Skinner and my dustbowl, empiricist education in the finer points of operant conditioning—a package of iTunes cards, today’s ultimate specimen of a secondary reinforcer. As I stood in line, I spied a popular weekly magazine with a photo of a highly acclaimed actor splashed across its cover, grinning like a feline who’d just consumed one of the planet’s feathered creatures. A millionaire several times over, dozens of awards keeping vigil on his mantel, the subject of both critical and popular renown, “I FEEL BLESSED!” he proclaimed.
I paused. Is that what blessedness is—the accumulation of money, power, accomplishment, good looks, private jets, mansions located in the toniest zip codes? Or is being blessed an effect of ostensibly more noble things, like educational bona fides, career success, or well-behaved offspring?
By any rational measure, I have been the beneficiary of more earthly treasure than any fellow has a right to expect or even hope for. I am married to a patient and adoring wife and am father to three energetic, fascinating, gifted, and demanding children. I have two loving and committed parents (still roaming the earth, too, as it happens, even as they approach four score and ten years). I am the brother to four extraordinary sisters who loved and continue to love me for reasons I’ve never been able to fathom, and with whom I have laughed and learned much. I grew up in a medium-sized college town in a middle-class neighborhood, surrounded by classmates, friends, and neighbors who uniformly cared about my well-being and development, attended an excellent public school, and emerged from stints in college, graduate school and law school with a relatively small amount of debt which my subsequent career permitted me to pay off in less than a decade. Up to this point I have always been pretty healthy, and intelligent enough to handle, with a little effort, the demands imposed by the educational institutions and career pursuits listed above. I’ve traveled a moderate amount—gazed at the northern lights, visited the Louvre, chatted with Beefeaters at the Tower of London, hiked in the Rockies and skied in the Appalachians, flown over the Grand Canyon, floated down the fjords of my forefathers, and watched basketball games at the Palestra and Allen and Hinkle Fieldhouses (for a basketball fanatic like me, these are Cathedrals). You get the idea.
But are those the experiences and privileges that constitute a “blessed” life in the most complete, accurate sense? I have known plenty (see above), but I have also known want. I have been dirt poor and was acquainted with hunger, too, for about a four year period of my young adulthood. I am also intimately familiar with the earthly sting of loss and separation and anxiety and sin and guilt on a very grand and damaging scale. I held my first-born son in my hands as he drew his final, tiny breaths. During those stretches, when privation and heartache were the norm, was I less blessed—or not blessed at all? A quick glance at the beatitudes (blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake) tell us that the unequivocal answer is an emphatic “NO.”
There are only a handful of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words used to denote the concept of “blessed” in the Bible, but even so it can be a difficult thing to pin down, to grasp with confidence. On the other hand, like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart addressing a decidedly different topic, regarding a blessed life—I know it when I see it. Happily for me, I see it clearly in the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ and—mirabile dictu!—have lived it myself.
A blessed life transcends money and education, status symbols, and creature comforts. It transcends health and conflict and suffering. A blessed life is one marked solely by a relationship with Christ, a life transformed by Christ, a life saved forever by faith in God’s only begotten Son, faith in the singular way, truth, and life. A blessed life is one which bestows on its beneficiary a profound, reality-based joy no matter what fortunes or misfortunes may arise. A blessed life is, regardless of any other circumstance (good, bad, indifferent) in the here and the now, one where enduring joy and peace is derived from the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the assurance of an eternity in the presence of God. A blessed life is one which recognizes God’s enduring and certain grace, acknowledges complete dependence on a perfect mediator to intervene on its behalf, repents of the myriad ways sin permeates and stains, and accepts with humility and open arms God’s love as ultimately expressed in the life, death, and resurrection of His Son.
— Tim Swensen