I’ve spent so much of my life trying to figure out how to “be blessed.”

I’ve come at it from different angles in different seasons of my life, depending on my perspective at the time. But I’ve always been trying to answer the same question: What do I need to do in order to achieve happiness, health, healing, balance and success?

I would read books, articles, magazines, the Bible, listen to podcasts, seek wisdom wherever else I could think to find it, trying to uncover the perfect formula for “blessed” finances, a “blessed” marriage, a “blessed” career and a “blessed” social life.

But lately I’ve been wondering: What does it even mean to be blessed?

Typically, I think of blessings as things that make me happy and comfortable. I think of blessings as things like book sales, paychecks, couches, coffee, good conversations or a night out with friends. Blessings are good relationships with family members or unexpected gifts from my husband.

Isn’t that what blessings are?

When I get flowers or perfume or new clothes I say I’m blessed. I say a blessing over each meal, rich with flavor and nutrition. I pray a friend will be “blessed” with a job she is seeking, or a beautiful home or the marriage she’s always dreamed of.

When I find myself overcome with grief or boredom or fear, I remind myself of all the ways I am blessed — that I am warm, I am fed, I have a roof over my head.

Of course, all of these are blessings. But is this the only way to be blessed?

Recently, I traveled to Guatemala, and I was struck by the fact that, although the people I met in this developing country didn’t enjoy any of the “blessings” I commonly name in my life, they are blessed. In fact, they are so blessed, they passed their blessing on to me in a way I can only hope to mimic.

My experience made me wonder: What if my definition of “blessed” is just way too thin?

I want to tread carefully here, because I don’t want to minimize or ignore the fact that there are real needs which must be met. People all over the world are suffering because of lack of blessings I enjoy every day — like food, love, security and belonging.

But what if they know how to be blessed in a way I am not?

What if blessing is bigger than we realize? What if the things we dread, or pray against or would never wish on our worst enemy can be blessings, too?

For example, what if it is a blessing, in a way, to be without a job — because it gives me the opportunity to see how I am not the sum of what I do?

What if it is a blessing to feel depressed, because sinking to the pit of despair gives me a chance to put grief and bitterness to death, and become someone new?

What if I am blessed when I can’t shop at Anthropologie, or buy a new Mini Cooper, or get myself an iPad, because only then do I discover that clothes and cars and technology do not make me valuable.

I already am valuable.

What if I am blessed, in a way, when finances are tight, because I learn about creativity, innovation and God’s unending love?

What if failure is as big a blessing as success?

What if this is how I learn, or grow, or am redirected to something new?

What if it is a blessing to be pushed out, or disowned, or disregarded by people I love? What if having empathy for those on the outside teaches me how to be the kind of person who invites others in?

What if I’m blessed when I argue with my husband, or my parents, or a co-worker, because conflict gives us a chance to come to new understanding?

What if I am blessed when I don’t have much money for Christmas presents, because then I am able to focus on what really matters around the holidays, rather than fighting traffic and crowds to buy presents I’ll donate to Goodwill in coming years?

What if I’m blessed and I don’t even know it?

What if we all did a better job of sharing our blessings with others? What if we all learned how to be blessed in new ways?

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