The Misunderstanding of Blessings

“Thank God! He has truly blessed me with

-a new car

-a scholarship

-a house

-children

It’s truly a blessing!”

“What a blessing! We must praise and worship him for His glorious blessings!”

Sounds familiar? I’m sure you have met or experience some form of these comments, where you or someone else gain something in life and it’s considered a blessing that others approve of. You don’t go “Thank God for this cancer and those 20 more days I have to live”. People’s first reaction isn’ to rejoice with you. In fact, they would most likely pity you. But why? Why is that so? Today’s article challenges that notion, that we should rejoice in whatever situation we are in and not only within those markers that we believe “blessings” to be.

Yet I can imagine that within some of you reading this, your hearts protest that blessings from God do come in this form (cars/scholarships/spouse/house etc). It’s true! I’m not saying that God doesn’t bless us in this manner and beyond what we imagine. God does bless us in material possessions when we please Him or obey him (or even when He just wants to bless us) as seen in the stories of Job (Job 42:12-17) and Solomon (1 Kings 3:6-14).

Yet what do we do and how do we react when we are faced with situations in which we do our best for God and yet are not seemingly rewarded for it?

For some, “Why did God take away my scholarship?”

“Why doesn’t God give me the good results I work hard for, for HIS Glory?”

“Why am I not achieving the best result I can in work/study etc?”

“Why do I have to deal with this situation when I’m serving the Lord with all my heart?”

Why does it seem that even though we’ve done our best for God, we are not rewarded for our faithfulness in the way we understand blessings to be? In fact, sometimes, it even seems as if this blessings are taken away from us instead.

Now, this topic isn’t something simple to understand and comprehend in entirety. Lots of questions comes to mind. What is blessings in actuality? Why does God take away such forms of happiness? etc.

Yet for today’s post, I wanted to dwell on the question “Why does God seemingly take my blessings away/refrain from giving me my blessings?”

And to answer that in the simplest way I can, in order for you guys to be able to take something back, I’ll be focusing on two things

1) the Story of Job

2) Malachi 3:7-18

My story

Do allow me to convince you that I am totally empathetic of your situation. I understand the confusion and anger we go through, especially at a time where our spiritual life seems to be taking flight, and yet on the contrary, our life in the material sense suddenly downgrades. From my own young experience, I am currently an English Lit Major in NUS. I’ll talk more about my story another time, but believe me when I say that the only reason I’m here doing English Lit in the National University of Singapore under a teaching scholarship, is because I’m absolutely convinced that it is God’s will.

Yet, being here, seeking to do His will above all else, and refusing the opportunities for a more prestigious degree or a degree that I would have enjoyed better, I had somehow expected that everything will be smooth sailing. I thought if I trust Him fully, I wouldn’t need to be caught in the storm of Life. In fact, because it was all for HIm, I thought He would honor me and glorify my name for His own name. And the storm came. All my simple faith and hopes, came crashing at my sails when repeatedly, I just kept scoring terribly at my essays and my results plummet in consequence. It was bad. I couldn’t do my honors with the grades I keep receiving. I tried so hard, setting appointments to see my lecturers who somehow, didn’t like me very much. I thought there must be something wrong with my spiritual life. There must be something wrong with me. God isn’t blessing me!

And at that moment of total confusion, Jesus calms the storm. And only by truly trusting Him and having faith, did peace come at last.

The First Cure: The Misery of Job

I realized firstly, that my understanding of a “blessing” was a very typical “churchian” definition. It was something that was generally materialistic in its aspect. It was something that the world recognizes as good, lucky, hard to get, deserves respect from others, is something you and your parents can be proud of etc. It was something that seemed desirable. No one wants a “failed scholarship”, “divorce”, “retention” etc

Allow me to give you the first Cure:

Blessings are things that inadvertently draws you closer to the Living God.

We can see this in the story of Job (which I will not go in biblical analysis depth here) and even the story of Abraham( and his struggle with God’s command to kill Isaac) or even Joseph (his apparent failure when he was cast into destitution and wronged several times).

Job’s story can be seen in the entirety of the book of Job. The book can be found after the book of Esther and before Psalms. For those who do not know of the story, the summary of Job can be seen here. Basically, Job was a man who had everything. He was known as a good godly man, and he was fillthyyy rich. But one day he lost everything, his ten children, his wealth and even his health. From Job, we see that the catalyst of his fall was actually very much in God’s plan, as seen in Satan who justifies that Job only worships God, for the blessings God has given him in his life. (Job 1)

And for Job, even at the end, we see that God does not justify himself. It wasn’t an issue of “Did Job deserve so much pain in his life? So much misfortune? Even when God admits that “there is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job1:8)”. It was an issue of “Job, do you still love me even when I take all those things you love away? Where am I in your heart?” and “Know me, Job. Know who I am.”

And after God reprimands him at the end, Job does Know God more. And it was truly an Awesome God that he knew. And that in itself, is the blessing that God gives.

The Second Cure: The Contradictory Scenes of Malachi 3:7-18

I’m going to put the entire text here. Cos I thinks it’s important… and well, it pretty much answers your questions

7Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’8“Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.“But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’

“In tithes and offerings. 9You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 10Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the Lord Almighty. 12“Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.

13“You have said harsh things against me,” says the Lord.

“Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’

14“You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? 15But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.’”

16Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.

17“They will be mine,” says the Lord Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession.a I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. 18And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.

I want you to realize that there are two ongoing (and at first glance, contradicting) scenes here

Malachi 3:7-11 is a challenge that God asks the Jews to take regarding His generosity. it a challenge to test Him in this, that if we are not selfish in our giving to God, He would not be selfish in His giving to us.

Yet immediately after, in

Malachi 3:12-18 He confronts them for accusing Him of being injustice and of the futility of serving Him. (Resonates much? All those times we ask “Why does that evil person/classmate/worker get all the glory, and he/she does so by cheating etc? Maybe I should do it that way, and then I’ll get the blessings I deserve”)

So it is contradictory in the sense, that God promises to bless us if we are wholehearted for HIm, and yet we are also aware that the wicked are the ones gaining “blessings”. Yet, we forget, our time here is transient, and the day where dues are due, the Day of the Lord, will come and that’s where our real blessings may be accounted for. There, our blessing of growing closer to Him is reached in perfection. We will then always be close to Him for eternity.

And so,

Blessings are not necessarily things we see in this timeline on Earth, but which will be clear on the Day of the Lord

Malachi 4 continues on in this vein

1“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. 3Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the Lord Almighty.

Conclusion: Take Away Items

1) Blessings are things that draws us closer to God

2) This blessings are not necessarily given to us here on our time on Earth

In fact, in practical application, we should just continue to trust in our Heavenly Father, that He has our best interests at heart and that we need not worry and take matters into our own hands when our blessings are seemingly taken away. God’s plans may seem incomprehensible to our logic at this point of time but it will make more sense when we look back in the future. Even then, we only see the merely a glimpse of his Complete plan, which will finally be known to us in entirety only when we finally meet Him again in heaven.

I used to be really confused and bitter somewhat as to why I had to be a teacher. It was definitely not a calling initially. Yet, after being more exposed to it, I realized that this was somewhere I could be, in order to reach out to others and to serve Him more. I didn’t know it then, but at least now, I have some sort of understanding.

With those two take away items, I hope it has helped in some ways to aligning certain confusion back to this narrow road we all are taking together!

Much Love and in His Army,

Mi-yue

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