Count your blessings
December 8, 2021
The Advent season is not only about waiting for the second coming of Christ. Advent is also about what we should be doing and how we should be living in that time in between Christ’s first appearance in Bethlehem and his eventual return on the clouds of heaven. This essay offers readers something they can think about and work on during this Advent season.
Life may be hard and difficult at times. Things may not always be going your way. There might be moments when you feel like giving up and throwing in the towel of surrender and defeat. However, before you do that, take time to consider the totality of your life. Everything is not falling apart. All the ground beneath your feet has not given way. Instead of pondering your problems all the time, take some time to count your blessings.
First, thank God that despite all you have been through, you are still alive. Have you ever stopped to think how many things have happened in your life that could have resulted in your death? Car accidents, medical emergencies, accidents around the house, and many more things could have kept any one of us from being alive today. Whenever I get ready to complain to God about how many dreadful things are in my life, God invites me to stop and run a memory check on my life. God asks me, do you remember when you were in the intensive care unit with tubes down your throat and in your arms on three separate occasions? Do you remember when the medicine needed to save your life gave you hallucinations that made you think you were already dead? Do you remember how close to death you have come over and over again? Whenever you start pondering your problems, stop long enough to count your blessings. That is what the song “Count Your Blessings” says:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost.
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
The second reason to count your blessings is to realize that the current circumstances and conditions of your life are not nearly as bad as you might think. Do not focus on all the things you wish you had that you do not currently possess. Instead, take a careful inventory of your life and consider all the good things you have going for you right now. Do this exercise when you get a chance. Make a list of all the things going on in your life that seem to be burdens and sorrows. Then, next to that list, start writing down all the things going on in your life right now that are blessings and benefits.
During this Advent season, I invite you to spend less time pondering your problems, and more time counting your blessings. Count the blessings God bestowed upon you in the past. Count the blessings God is bestowing on you right now. Then consider all the blessings God is holding in store for you in the future and even into eternity.
The Lord woke you up this morning. That is a blessing. The Lord put shoes on your feet. That is a blessing. The Lord put a roof over your head. Food on your table. Strength in your limbs. Activity in your mind. All these things are blessings. You may have sicknesses and ailments, but you have doctors and medicines to treat what ails you. That is a blessing. If you have a job, that is a blessing. If you have some insurance, that is a blessing. If you have family and friends, they are blessings. If you have some money in your pocket, even if it is not much by worldly standards, that is a blessing. Do not ponder your problems when you could be counting your blessings.
Consider another verse in this song:
Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.
The third reason to count your blessings is that the best is yet to come! When I use those words, I mean what the 19th-century spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” meant when the slaves would comfort themselves and each other by looking beyond their chains and their scars and their sorrows, and lift their voices and sing:
I looked over Jordan, and what did I see, but a band of angels coming after me.
If you get there before I do, tell all my friends I’m coming too.
Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home.
None of us alive today have experienced anything remotely like being held in brutal, lifelong slavery. That is a blessing. However, there is more for us to consider. We have a future hope that death will not have the final word about our lives. Count it as a blessing that death will not defeat you and the grave will not stop you. Count it as a blessing that the last words spoken about you will not be “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, and dust to dust.” The last words will come from Jesus when he says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
I count it as a blessing that God can raise me from the grave and usher me into his glorious presence. I count it as a blessing that I will be invited to stand with others at the throne of grace in glory. I count it as a blessing that I will be able to hear the angels chanting “Holy, Holy, Holy” as they serenade the King of kings.
During this Advent season, I invite you to spend less time pondering your problems and more time counting your blessings. Count the blessings God bestowed upon you in the past. Count the blessings God is bestowing on you right now. Then consider all the blessings God is holding in store for you in the future and even into eternity. Hear the last verse of the hymn:
When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold.
Count your many blessings money cannot buy,
Your reward in heaven and your home on high.
Dr. Marvin A. McMickle is interim pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio, where he previously served as senior pastor for nearly twenty-five years, and professor of African American Religious Studies at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Rochester, New York, where he served as president from 2011 to 2019.