When I was young, I didn’t use the word, “blessed.” I thought it seemed shallow and artificially religious, something you say to sound religious when you didn’t know what else to say. I wasn’t even sure what it meant. But, as I have grown older, I have changed my mind.
I grew up in Texas. When someone asked, “How are you?” any answer other than “Fine,” or “Great,” tended to throw the conversation off course. When I lived in Minnesota, an understated culture, I learned that the appropriate response to “How are you?” was “Not too bad.” When I tried to use that response in Texas, it raised all kinds of complications. But, whether in Minnesota or Texas, I discovered that African American Christians had developed an entirely different response. When I asked my them, “How are you?” they almost always responded, “I’m blessed.” I like the African American response.
Jesus used this term when he introduced the Sermon On the Mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit … blessed are those who mourn … blessed are the meek … blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness … blessed are the merciful … blessed are the pure in heart … blessed are the peacemakers … blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.” (Matthew 5:3-10). He Greek New Testament used the word makarios which some have translated “happy.” I think “blessed” is the right word.
Being blessed has nothing to do with prosperity, health, comfort or security. It is all about a relationship with God that blesses us whatever our circumstances happen to be. In fact, those who suffer poverty, illness and difficulty are more likely to experience God’s blessing than those who are wealthy and well off.
I grew up listening to Billy Graham each week and looked forward to hearing the Hour of Decision on the radio. Dr. Graham’s messages, books and, most of all, his conduct always inspired me. He ended every broadcast by saying, “God bless you real good.” It wasn’t proper grammar, but we all understood what he meant and, when we listened to him, we always felt blessed.
Some churches end with a rush toward the doors to get a jump on parking lot traffic and early seating at nearby restaurants. Most churches take time to conclude their worship with the “benediction,” a blessing of the worshipers as they leave the worship experience. In African American churches the benediction is often the high point of the service.
When God called Abraham to follow Him, he promised him He would bless him and make him a blessing to the nations (Genesis 12:2). Perhaps the secret to following Jesus is living every day knowing that we are blessed and seeking ways to bless others. When we are blessed, we can sing with the Psalmist, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered,” (Psalm 32:1). “O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him,” (Psalm 34:8).