Almost three years ago AnOldSinner wrote a piece entitled “Blessed?” It was in response to an essay published by another Christian writer concerning the use of the term blessed. The writer in question (let’s call him Jerry)1 opined that American Christians used the word blessed too often and improperly. He went so far in his piece as to say American Christians appeared arrogant in their use of the word, and were likely misusing it. A few months later, this writer traveled to South America on a mission trip. That trip inspired “Truly Blessed” which expanded on Blessed.
So, one might ask what prompted Still Blessed? A marvelous and infuriating aspect of social media is that one’s work can resurface at any time. That happened in this case. Someone republished Jerry’s essay taking Christians to task for claiming they were blessed, and it popped up in AnOldSinner’s Facebook timeline. After reading it again, it seemed appropriate to expand on the earlier pieces.
To be honest, it is strange for this writer to be defending the use of the term blessed. AnOldSinner’s alter writing ego, OneOldCop, bristles regularly when people get carried away in their response to general or natural revelation. God is everywhere, and can be seen in everything, if one is looking. However, the idea that God is personally scripting a gorgeous sunset one is watching while relaxing on a beach often strikes this writer in a manner similar to the way Jerry feels about using the word blessed.
God created the conditions that allow one to witness a gorgeous sunset, fantastic sunrise, or beautiful snowfall in the mountains. He also created the circumstances that lead to gloomy days when one cannot see the sun rise or set, and He created the circumstances leading to the Red Tide algae bloom which invades the gulf coast of Florida annually. Red Tide is considered many things, but gorgeous is not one of them. Yet, God made it possible, and in its own way, it is as magnificent as the sunset one would photograph and mount on one’s wall. The same can be said for the idea of blessings.
Part of the reason Jerry railed against people claiming to be blessed was his experience in a Central American country where a variation of the health, wealth and prosperity gospel was used, in his opinion, to make people feel they lacked faith. He believes people were being told they would be blessed with better living conditions and less oppression if only they had more faith.
If his perceptions are true, the situation is horrible. Still, as this writer noted in Truly Blessed it is possible to feel blessed in very difficult situations. It is also possible, as with the analogy of the Red Tide, American Christians simply fail to recognize that God blesses people in different ways.
One story that comes to mind is the story told by one of this writer’s mentors. After spending time doing mission work in Brazil, this American pastor noticed the village in which the mission work was based had an economic problem. Much of the villages local economy was based on fishing. This created a problem in his mind because of the primitive nature of the fishing business. He thought there must be some way to make life easier for the men who made their living by fishing, and after much thought, he had an epiphany.
One problem for the fishermen was that there was no way to store the fish. If they caught more than they could eat or sell in the village it had to be thrown away. He decided they needed a commercial freezer. Then they could freeze the excess fish and sell it later for a profit. He also believed this would give them more time to spend with their families and supporting the local church. When he shared his grand plan with them, they had one question. Who would buy the fish? The reality was there was no advantage to catching more fish than they could use in a day.
Jerry saw oppressed people, and thought they were being misled about the role of faith in their lives. The young minister saw the fishermen breaking their backs and not having what they needed because they did not have a way to store and market fish. From his experience Jerry has learned to feel guilty about his life. From the young minister’s experience he learned that not everyone needs a marketing plan to feel successful.
By American standards both the fishing village and the area in which Jerry served are poverty stricken and oppressed. That does not mean the people there do not feel they are blessed in some ways, and it does not mean they look at Americans as arrogant fools for feeling blessed. It may mean they are able to see God in the sunset and the Red Tide.
1.It is not this writer’s goal to start an online debate with another writer, so using a pseudonym instead of identifying the other writer is standard practice.
© S. E. Jackson – 2017