Someone once told me that “to be blessed” is to be happy to the point of bursting — to be so full of joy that no speck of anger, jealousy, or bitterness can find a spot in the heart to mar one’s sense of peace — no matter what your circumstances may look like.
Growing up, if I were asked to define the word, my description would have been much different.
I thought someone was blessed if they were well provided for financially. Someone who was of considerable standing in the community. Someone whom trouble never seemed to touch.
Since none of those things applied to my own family it was easy to joke that we were cursed. Unfortunately, it was a joke I eventually came to believe, and as a result I was marred by a spirit of bitterness and developed an unhealthy view of who I was. In my mind I was doing everything right. So why was everything still going so wrong?
I recently asked several of my friends what came to their minds when they heard someone referred to as “blessed.” I discovered a near-even divide between those who spoke of material things and those who pointed to contentment in all things — especially the hard things. This surprised me, because I honestly expected the answer to be more one-sided.
King David had his own definition:
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the council of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night. Ps. 1:1-2 (NIV)
As I read through that first Psalm, I was reminded that David was considered a blessed man despite being prone to making foolish choices. He was also no stranger to danger, trouble, or the ill-will of others. So what was it that made him blessed?
I am convinced that it was because his relationship with the Lord was so secure he had a peace that could never be shaken by any of life’s twists or turns. It doesn’t mean he liked going through the hard things and didn’t grieve over society’s troubles — subsequent psalms prove otherwise — it simply meant he knew exactly where he stood and why because he’d taken the time to seek and know God.
So who is blessed, and who isn’t?
I’ve been mulling over these two particular verses for a couple of months now and during that time I’ve come to see that they talk about two types of people: The one who is blessed and the one who is not.
If I take the literal wording in the verse to define one who is blessed, the opposite would be true of who is unblessed. In this case, the individual who walks in the council of the wicked, stands in the way of sinners, or sits in the seat of mockers.
If I’m not careful, I could easily conclude that the shepherd king is telling me to cut myself off from such unsavory people. This is something as Christians we tend to do all too often. When I look at the life of Christ, however, I can quickly discount that as the correct interpretation. Had Jesus avoided the wicked, the sinners, and the mockers of the earth, he would have avoided the earth all together. Where would that leave me?
I considered who David was and who he was entrusted to lead. That’s when I realized it’s not “people” David warns are dangerous, it’s choosing to live in a manner that would rob us of the fullness of God’s presence that he cautions us to avoid.
As Israel’s early leader Joshua neared the end of his life he called on the children of Israel to remember the God whom they served, and in turn He would remember them. But, he warned, if they chose to walk away, to serve other gods, and to embrace the lifestyles of the neighboring cultures they could expect God to remove his protective hand from them, and they would have to face the natural consequences of their actions.
Like any good parent, God isn’t going to reward bad behavior.
In Israel’s case, God’s blessings included a lot of tangible proofs in the form of land and wealth, but the truth of Joshua’s words still remain: When my focus is on God himself, when I’m seeking a close, constant relationship with him, it doesn’t seem to matter what happens in my day. I still feel the pressure of each struggle, but my outlook is one of hope rather than anger or fear.
But, give me a few days on my own and those ugly thoughts and old habits start rearing their nasty heads. Instead of being able to celebrate a friend’s good fortune, I slink off and wonder, “How come that never happens to me?”
Instead of being thankful that once again all my needs for the day have been met, I look through magazines and store windows and think, “If only I had more money, or could travel more, or look a certain way, I would finally be happy.”
In moments of self pity I feel anything but blessed.
How thankful I am that no matter how many times I throw temper tantrums, without fail, my Daddy is waiting right there with outstretched arms when I’ve finished. Just like the amazing parents I see who snuggle up with their kiddos once they realize they’ve been misbehaving and apologize, the matter is completely dropped and forgotten.
I think the biggest thing I’ve taken away from my time mulling over these verses is that my friend was right. It’s not the tangible that blesses or curses. It’s something better than anything I can see, smell, taste, or touch. When our center is in Christ rather than on self we are filled with a joy beyond bursting, and He covers us in such a way that no power in heaven or earth can rob us of our joy and our peace.
That’s a blessing indeed!