When our work or other efforts are successful, we often say that they were blessed. This applies equally to business projects, studies, marriage or almost anything.
When life smiles on us, we may subconsciously think that we somehow deserve the success. If the success is clearly related to our own capabilities, we may even forget where our gifts come from.
Some of the clichés pertaining to success include academic distinction, having a spouse and children, a job promotion, a balanced marriage, a family house, a good car, a vacation home, well-educated children and a prestigious job.
On the website of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland, ‘blessing’ is defined as God’s presence and care in the world. If, then, we lack some of the attributes of good life, has the Creator been absent or not paying attention to us?
I have experienced both good luck and misfortunes in my life. My hardest experiences have been the loss of my job during the 1990s recession and the two cancer diagnoses I have had over the past few years. I have been fortunate, however, to have a wife, children and grandchildren, and my children have also found their niches in society.
Maybe the hardships that God has given me have actually been signs of His presence. Although He has tested my faith, He has not abandoned me. My wife and I have been helped through all adversities.
The greatest blessing we can imagine is to get into heaven. We can therefore conclude that all things that help us on our way to heaven are blessings.
Yet I do not think that those who experience hardships and trials are especially in need of punishment. Excessive success can also be a trial. If all things turn out well, one’s whole life may seem a matter or organization. Everything goes well if I just rationally organize my life. Well-organized life is not a sin, but it may obscure our view of needing God’s blessing. The Bible warns us about the dangers of excessive wealth, and I do not think this only refers to spiritual overconfidence.
I have been blessed with two cancers, but I have been granted overtime, and I am now feeling astonishingly well. Illness has not made me a better person, but I understand that I am now blessed with life. I have not defeated my cancers, I have only agreed to have treatments.
‘Blessing’ seems to defy definition. If I had died from cancer and been taken into heaven, that would have been more of a blessing than anything else.
Maybe all things that we experience are some kind of blessing. God gives us hardships when we need a reminder of the most precious thing in life and prospects of clear sailing when we need hope.
It is challenging to define ‘blessing’. We easily only pay attention to people’s outward life. Actually, however, peace of mind, contentment and confidence may be greater blessings than material wealth. A person may lead an ostensibly modest life and yet be fully content with his or her lot. It is a blessing to be able to find interesting things and feel happiness, even though one is not showered with money.
Someone may be materially successful but have sorrows that few other people are aware of. The outward success of a person may also be a trial to others. Can we be content with our own lot?
My late father-in-law had given wise advice to my wife, who had worried about her inability to pay back the good things she had been given. He had said that we should freely accept the gifts we are given and then pass the blessing on to others.
Some people may experience such big hardships that, from the human viewpoint, they do not even seem helpful or useful. The Bible tells us about Job, whose life was like a roller-coaster ride. He experienced both abundant success and heavy trials. Job lived and died as a believer. Because his end was good, his life must also have been good.
The purpose of life is a great mystery. We cannot understand it without faith. Faith is therefore more important than rational understanding.
I have had ups and downs in my life. If I could look back and change it, I would not know how to do it. I am believing now, and that means my life must have been good. The sun is shining right now. I feel I am gaining strength and recovering from my cancer, which I did not believe I would do. This must be a blessing.
Text: Heikki Honkala
Traslation: Sirkka-Liisa Leinonen
You will find the original Finnish blog post here.
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