A month or so ago I wrote “Blessed?” It was inspired by an essay published by another writer. His piece questioned the use of the word blessed. In fact the author believed the use of the word by Christians in the United States is inappropriate and offensive to others around the world.
As I write this, I sit in a coastal village in Brazil. It is an area many in the United States would call poverty-stricken and backward. If one is only looking at the buildings, roads and other signs of civilization that is certainly the case. Brazil has many political and economic challenges, which lead to blighted areas and problems that overshadow the tropical beauty of the land and the heart of the people.
Previously, this writer has only known Brazil from documentaries, Hollywood, and tourism promotions. It is likely that many people in the United States know Brazil in the same way. We think of Carnival in Rio, the Amazon, beautiful women, and brightly colored birds. We think of the outstretched arms of Christ the Redeemer overlooking Rio from a mountain top.
We never think of the people who live in the shacks that are little more than make shift lean-tos hidden behind walls in major cities. We never think of the people who live in small villages in houses without windows and doors. We never think of fishermen who in many cases fish in a manner reminiscent of the fishermen in the Sea of Galilee at the time of Christ. Yet that is the reality of the world in which I find myself.
The author mentioned above implied people such as the men and women with whom I have spent the last few days could not feel blessed. Their circumstances are such that they have little to feel blessed about, and many reasons to dislike the idea that American Christians feel they are blessed.
The message in “Blessed?” was that the man who implied people might not feel blessed in poverty-stricken areas was wrong. I argued that people can and will feel blessed anywhere, without regard for their circumstances. My experience in Brazil seems to support that message.
I am in Brazil as part of a men’s ministry mission trip from my home church. We have been meeting with men in a small fishing village on the northeastern edge of Brazil. In recent years, some of the villagers, men from my home church and others helped build a new church for the village. Unfortunately, it is being met with condemnation and resentment by the dominant religious group in the area. To make matters worse, the majority of the villagers do not attend church, and they openly ridicule those who do.
Of the few villagers who attend either church, fewer still are men. Yet, a small group of men wants this church to grow and want to reach out to other men in the village. They want to use the church to combat the drunken and adulterous behavior of the male culture in the village. They want to do this by bringing the men of the village to Christ. This writer and the group from my church are working to help these men become better disciples to their friends and families.
The foregoing is simply the setting. This writer’s mission, the other writer’s thoughts, the poverty, and the conflict are simply the backdrop for the point of this essay. It is the background against which I am asking readers to evaluate “Blessed?” and the remainder of this piece.
The remainder of this essay is evidence to support what has been said previously here and in the essay “Blessed?” People feel blessed under many different circumstances, and no one should be told they cannot or should not express that feeling. The people of the fishing village church stand as evidence that not only people of the Old Testament can feel blessed when the world seems to be crumbling.
For the last five days men from the United States and men from Brazil have studied together, witnessed to each other and worshiped together. Other members of the church helped these two groups by providing meals, worshiping with the men and helping with the planning for the future of the church. The groups also spent time playing and bonding through various activities.
Throughout this time together, the men from both countries shared their faith, their fears and their feelings. It quickly became obvious the differences between the groups were superficial, while the similarities were significant. Men in both groups loved their families, feared the challenges facing them, worried about finances, worried about finding a job, and wanted to be the best man, father and husband they could be.
The other similarity was they all felt blessed. Whether a man lived in a large modern home in Texas or a tiny home with only the basic necessities in Brazil, he felt blessed. Whether the man went to work in an air-conditioned office or a one man fishing boat, he felt blessed. Others in the church felt the same way. From the women who volunteered to cook or clean to the men who played on the worship team and ran the audio-visual equipment. They all felt blessed.
I cannot speak fully to why each of them felt blessed. I can speak to the reasons voiced by the young men with whom I worked directly. They were two young men in their twenties. They expressed they felt blessed because of their relationship with Jesus Christ and their church. They also felt blessed by their family and friends. They expressed this verbally. They expressed this through their actions. They expressed this through their emotions. There was no misunderstanding their position on the matter.
These young men were not worry free. Both worried about finding a good job. Both worried about the pressure they felt because they were the first in their families to accept Christ, and people were watching them like hawks, waiting for them to make a mistake. Both worried that they could end up like many older men in the village, drinking too much, cheating on their wives, and abusing their children. Still, they felt blessed by the chance their church gave them to help others and stand up for their beliefs.
I do not know why God blesses anyone. I do not know why He chooses not to bless someone, if He ever does. I do know these young men feel truly blessed, and they are eager to share their blessings. I do not know if I am truly blessed, but I feel that way. I especially feel that way as I write this, because I was blessed to meet a group of believers whose lives are incredibly difficult compared to mine. Still, they feel blessed.
The writer whose work inspired “Blessed?” apparently judged both fellow Americans and believers in another South American country. He judged the people to whom he ministered as not being blessed because of the lives they led. He judged his fellow Americans to be prideful, selfish and arrogant for assuming they were blessed and telling everyone about it. It seems to AnOldSinner he was seeing fellow believers through the prism of his own biases and fears.
He could not see how poverty stricken residents of a South American country could feel blessed because of their earthly situation. Further, he apparently feels his fellow citizens in the United States measure their blessings solely in terms of the material world. He may be right in some cases, but he is not correct when he generalizes it to all people.
The truly blessed are everywhere. How they live, what they do and how much they have makes no difference to God. It is who they are, how much they love Him, and how much they love others that count. If Job could understand he was still blessed by God when everything was taken from him, anyone may feel, and be, blessed under any circumstances.
How about you? Can you recognize the blessings God has given you, or are you blinded by trials and challenges?
© S. E Jackson-2014