The Blessed Life

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
~ Matthew 5:4

What do you think of as the “blessed” life? Do you picture the American Dream… a large house, new clothes, a nice suburban family life? Or is it a satisfied ambition, fulfilled talents and dreams, good health? Is it a life with few regrets? A feeling of happiness?

What is the Blessed Life?

How great the contrast between the definitions humans beings apply to the word ‘blessed’ and the ones of God’s choosing! Most of us agree with Job’s friends, and few believe that mourning in life is the sign of a blessing. I haven’t. Not even when I read those words, today, in the beatitudes listed in Matthew. I still do not view mourning as a blessing, or trials as a joy … the way James exhorts in James 1:1-3. I have to wrestle, struggling to twist my mind into a way of considering things that is completely foreign.

There is little in church messages to help me to conform to God’s view on this. Instead, I condemn myself, and am supported in the opinion that every trouble in my life is my fault and evidence of how displeased God is. We are that saturated with a view of blessing so contrary to one who lives as resident of God’s Kingdom.

Jesus promised us abundant life, but we have interpreted that to mean that we are materially wealthy and upwardly mobile in our society. We forget that He plainly said, “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses”. It is a matter of how we measure blessing.

How do you measure blessing?

It also isn’t a matter of whether men speak well of you.
Or how popular you are in your sphere… or elevated in your career … or even what influence you hold. Yet, isn’t that what we call living a blessed life?

How does God measure the blessings of a blessed life?

Many of the measurements are acquired character. Some are the patient trust and waiting upon God for outcomes in our situations. All are, one way or another, tied to how we relate properly to our Maker. Not once or twice in a lifetime, but everyday. If we seek God, we will find the blessed life… not always smooth and trouble-free, but with a happy ending.

7 thoughts on “The Blessed Life”

  1. To be useful. That’s the blessed life (from my nonChristian perspective, admittedly).

  2. It is, indeed. Being useful is part of finding meaning, and expressing love for our fellow man… both necessary for a life of satisfaction and happiness (alternate definitions for “blessed”).

    Whether we are religious or not, if we take a concept like “useful”, there are still problems with how we measure that.

    In Christianese, we talk about the view of “works-related”, valuing ourselves on the basis of how much “good works” we do, which totally negates the way we relate (best citation on that is the famous 1 Cor 13 passage “If I have not love, I am nothing”).

    What is useful to our fellow man, and what is not? Are the mentally handicapped “useful”? How about those debilitated by disease? The very elderly? I think some modern ethics problems find root in our measurement of “usefulness”.

    God, in the Christian definition, has a very inclusive type of economy in this. Even those who make the worst mistakes, or who reject Him during periods of time, or those who find themselves destroyed and wasted in ways that make them no longer useful in the generally accepted sense, can find all those factors to hold meaning and “blessing” when the life then directed towards God in faith. This is basic to the words redemption and restoration, within the larger term ‘salvation’.

    But yes, I think being useful is very much an important part of the blessed life.

  3. Interesting…Ilona, have you ever seen or met someone you think could never be useful?

    I think mentally handicapped people and the elderly can indeed be useful in many ways, but there was one person I thought was useless (I have to mark boundaries here…I mean from a personal perspective, not political.)

    I saw a documentary on the BBC way back when I lived in a state of poverty (nowt new there) and had to lie about my TV licence status πŸ˜‰ It was about a wee girl with a terrible genetic defect. She wasn’t expected to live into double figures. She was not able to develop past the level of a newborn baby. She was in constant pain and on a painkilling drip. She couldn’t properly breathe for herself so she was attached to an oxygen machine and her mum had to turn her six or ten times a night so she could breathe clearly.

    Was the wean useless? Not at all, she didn’t ask for her state! But I was raging against the mum. She knew the genetic defect would be passed down to any female children she had and she just said “Oh well it’s fate so of course we don’t use birth control”. She was pregnant again at the time of the documentary.

    I’m cutting out political stuff for who and why I might deem to be useless but me and my brother were both raging when we saw that doco. I went round to his bit and we were sat outside lowering the tone of the neighbourhood as usual (cider for me, weed for him) and he said “Isn’t that the same as being a torturer? Willingly bringing someone into the world whose destiny is to suffer and suffer even more until she dies before she’s ten then going on to do the same thing again?”

    I didn’t really have an answer for that.

  4. The trouble with deeming usefulness lies within the perspectives and the potentialities. The little girl you describe has little discernible potential from the way most view “usefulness”.

    It is a normal reaction to feel anger… and the way we direct our anger about such things has more to do with our internal compass than with actual circumstances.

    Because we don’t know the future, or the full ramifications of the way a life influences others, no one can really say whether a life is useful or not, or whether suffering is worth the cost of it or not.

    Only when we reduce things into an artificial set of factors, which we will “allow” for purposes of abstract discussion, can we begin to judge whose fault or whether it is right that some people have an existence. That is where all the ethical problems start to become something dangerous and grotesque… because that is where we step into the role of “god/God”. And no matter whether one is religious or not, we must roleplay in order to categorically decide the fates of others.

    What we really are railing against is the awful unfairness and pain of suffering and death. And the fact that it is everyone’s lot in some way or another. Yet, we value our lives in spite of the sure end of death and unknown but sure quantities of suffering it holds for us.

    Suffering does not have a scientific gauge, although we attempt to give it one to alleviate it.

    Perspective and potential… in the individual and in the lives of those around, and in society.

    As for whether one is a torturer to bear or beget someone who will suffer…
    where does one draw the line of responsibility? – ignoring that no one knows the future- should someone in a historically wartorn country stop bringing children into that world? Should people with no known hope of escaping poverty be proscribed from bringing children into their circumstances?

    I am tempted to judge such things myself. What stops me short is the fact that there are some people who shouldn’t be born… but sometimes it is because of what they become and do- quite apart from anything like a defect of some sort. The only way to right such things is to align and ally with the Good.

    That is what people who want a better world try to do… but inside of that solution is the crux of the entire problem: Who and what is Good?

    It is easier to get angry at a woman who has children – the conduit of the problem as we see it… the conduit of pain for some luckless child who didn’t ask to be born.

    That strikes me as unjust. Angry at her ignorance, or selfish desire to have children, or different moral perspective? How do you punish those things you are angry with without becoming inhumane?

  5. I have come to believe it’s not really honest or possible to punish (and there needs to be punishment) without being inhumane. Saint-Just said “That which produces the general good is always terrible”. True enough for most purposes. I’m a Leninist, I don’t have to be nice πŸ˜‰

    But here I don’t know who one would punish without making things worse. The poor wee wean’s existence is a harder punishment on her, the innocent in this all, than the mum and the succession of dads (strangely enough, after a while the dads “found it all too much to bear, and we split up” *headdesk*)but they must be suffering too, in their own ways, and I’d be a hard hearted person indeed to condemn a mum who sets her alarm to turn her child ten times a night to stop that child from choking to death. What I can’t understand is why that mum wouldn’t want to stop that from happening to another child and why she calls a child who would exist in agony if it wasn’t for constant morphine a “miracle”? For whom is this miraculous?

    My brother, who’s a mild mannered liberal compared to nearly everyone (including both me and you), used to be a vegetarian until he was stopped on doctors’ orders and is one of the most compassionate people I know, was in a towering rage at the woman. “They ought to sterilise people like that.” I’ve never heard him say something like that before or since.

    It was felt necessary to distance ourselves from the child. I can’t remember her name even and that’s why I call her the wean (if you don’t know this, that’s Scots for “the kid” where I come from). I don’t think you would have had that distancing effect. I think you would have remembered her name.

    Escaping poverty brings out revolutionaries and a wide panoply of human existence. That child will be doomed to suffer in her cot until death brings release. And mummy wants more “if that’s what God sends us” (she was not invoking God in the way you might, but more as a turn of phrase).

    I see your argument that one can’t know, precisely, what good anyone does in the world, including this small suffering child or the mum that made her with the help of a fly by night dad. But we can choose to suffer for a cause or something we believe in. The wean has nothing but constant physical suffering and she isn’t even as aware as my three week old niece (who was born prematurely). Aren’t there different levels of suffering for different reasons?

  6. I could have a field day with that first paragraph, perhaps it will inspire a future post! Suffice to say, that justice is indeed severe in the requirement for retribution.

    I do find that emotional pain will cause me to distance- so I understand that. However much we desire to shelter people from pain and suffering it is just not possible. It is not possible to make that woman choose a different path, and we shouldn’t desire to “force” people to choose certain moralities. This is the basis for the idea of religious freedom, and the failures it produces are scary, but not nearly so much as the excesses produced by a moral tyranny.
    Not to say I advocate a moral anarchy (license), because you know I don’t…. There are basic moral standards and those should be enforced for the good of the larger society.

    That said, I do think we have a moral responsibility to protect the weak, innocent, and defenseless. That is probably what surfaced in your brother… an outrage at what is seen as irresponsibility in this.

    Now I’ve said some things that could give *you* a field day, but here is the problem with freedom: it makes room for failure. To have real freedom you have to have real possibility for mistakes. What is law but a way to limit the worst mistakes and abuses of freedoms? Laws aren’t sufficient to outline the best way to live, just to rein in the worst.

    The answer for the problem you see with this woman and her child is a problem on the individual basis. Working with people one on one to attempt to educate and convince. Force is not an option is such means…which makes for a certain percentage of failure in the effort to change things.

    Here in America we did have history of forced sterilization. It did not end well, and is a source of hindsight shame. That is not an answer.

  7. As for my first para, please do a post on it! I’d love to discuss it, but I warn you my opinions on this issue get comrades angry when I discuss it, let alone Christians πŸ˜‰

    I completely agree with you that forced sterilisation would be wrong on many levels. That’s not the way to deal with this mum and her problems. It’s difficult not to be very angry with her but that would be a terrible place to start…forcing women to be sterilised if they have the possibility of bearing disabled kids? That’s getting into the realms of horror (and I have read up a wee bit about the US practice of this in older times).

    My mum’s more hardcore than me on this by a long way. She takes the Peter Singer line of argument. She doesn’t agree with IVF either, or adoption instead of abortion (I think if you met her you would have a lot of arguments) πŸ˜‰

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