By Steven L. Shields, Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA
You have put gladness in my heart more than when their grain and wine abound. I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety. Psalm 4:7–8
Not long ago I discussed with a friend what makes up a “blessing.” He believed signs that God had blessed a person included a middle-class salary, a decent house, and good health. I disagreed.
Like my friend, I grew up in a middle-class household in a wealthy and powerful nation. I thought that “blessing” meant possessions like the three-bedroom, two-bathroom, house we lived in, the family cars, the camping trailer, three square meals a day, and television.
Those who had less were not as blessed. We mistakenly thought those with physical ills were often not as faithful. Praying meant that we must first thank God for all the things we thought God had given us; then ask God for the things we still wanted.
Much of my adult life and ministry has taken place far from my homeland. I worked with people who did not enjoy wealth and plenty of material goods. These are people who barely had enough food to survive from one day to the next; people who could not access preventive health care.
Yet, the people were happy. They went about their tasks with joy. They held a pure, simple faith that God actively engages in their existence. Their lively worship reflected their reliance on God. Surely, they were blessed.
Psalm 4 expresses a state of blessedness for disciples to seek. Isn’t having “gladness in my heart” more important than an abundance of “grain and wine”? Isn’t it a greater blessing to be able to “lie down in safety” and “sleep in peace”?
As we recount our blessings, let us not focus on physical things, but on the spiritual blessedness that God gives us generously and unconditionally.
Prayer for Peace:
God of blessing, we would seek that which brings us close to you. Bless us with the desire to share the peace of Jesus Christ with the world.
Spiritual Practice for the Week: Caring for God’s Sacred Creation
Prayerfully consider the following practices or create your own. Walk in nature with a spirit of gratitude and “holy attention.” Write a psalm of praise for the beauty of the Earth or a prayer of healing and blessing for the Earth. Learn about and engage in an act of Earth-keeping such as recycling, simple living, fasting from over-consumption of resources. Notice the unique diversity of the planet’s creatures. Fall in love with the vast, intricate wonder of God’s creation.
Today, God, I will recount my spiritual blessings.