‘Hidden’ Blessings

The last few weeks, as the winter snows have finally melted away, I’ve been spending more time at family meals looking out our windows and doors. My seat at the kitchen table affords me a great view of our neighbor’s pear tree, covered in white blossoms. It’s a welcome sight, a sign that the bitter-cold winter of 2013-14 really is over.

Praise God from Whom
all blessings flow.

There are many days, however, when the sight of this beautiful tree is “obscured” somewhat by the chew marks on our porch deck railing. There are other days when my heart is completely blind to multiple blessings. On those days, I almost literally cannot see the pear tree for the chew marks. On those days, I am reminded of how I used to scoff at the ancient Israelites as they whined and grumbled against Moses and Aaron during the Great Exodus from Egypt.

Numbers 14:10 used to be a jaw-dropping passage of Scripture for me. I simply could not believe that the Israelites would ever lift a stone to kill Moses and Aaron after the miracle of the Red Sea, but the longer I live and the more complaints I hear – particularly those tucked away in the shadows of my own heart – the more convinced I am that God has given us this story precisely to show us how quickly our hearts can turn against Him.

Praise Him all creatures
here below.

As always, time is the great revealer of ingratitude.

Nowadays it is becoming fashionable to dismiss the grumbling of others in our midst by labeling their complaints as “a First-World problem,” meaning simply that whatever is currently causing an individual’s heart to grow hard is a problem that just about everyone in a third-world nation would accept with overwhelming gratitude. The car doesn’t start. The energy bill is too high. Vehicle traffic in Columbia is getting a lot worse. “Can you believe that they only had two cashiers working when I went to pay for my groceries?” These all fall solidly in the category of complaints that most of the rest of the world can only dream about, as these problems would mean that they had cars to drive, homes that had heating and money to spend on food.

It’s the same thing with my lower deck railing.

Praise Him above,
Ye heavenly host!

As I sit inside, comfortably enjoying a homemade meal with loved ones, I can’t help but glance out the window and be tempted to become annoyed at the nonstop gnawing with which our one-year-old dog has defaced our home. “Some white paint would go a long way toward hiding the ugliness of the gnaw marks,” I think to myself. But then I quickly realize that Calvin would simply add a fresh coat of white deck paint to his Wood Railing Diet. Short of removing all his teeth or never letting him go outside, it seems as though my family is doomed to live with a lower deck railing that looks like it was salvaged from a junk yard…at least until Calvin outgrows his propensity for eating wood.

And all the while, of course, I fail to see the blessings that undergird this minor annoyance. Without even working too hard, I can rattle off dozens of blessings that exist hand-in-hand with this “problem” of my dog creating an ongoing need for an outdoor paint job:

  • To start things off, our family owns a home.
  • As of this writing, we are in no immediate danger of losing our home.
  • My wife and I both have paid employment.
  • We regularly have meals together in our kitchen, and there is absolutely no concern about running out of food. (One quick look at my waistline confirms this blessing.)
  • Our dog has brought a lot of joy to our lives.
  • My wife and I are both healthy; getting outdoors to paint the railing is still an option.
  • We can easily afford to replace the wood, whenever we decide the timing is right.
  • God has been blessing our lives with a great deal of peace and health for years now.

The blessings above came to mind in an instant; all I had to do was ask God to show me the ways in which He has been supporting us and carrying us over the course of our years together in this home. And the well never runs dry, either. If you spend even a few minutes in this exercise, you soon come to see that for even one of the blessings listed above to be true, a thousand other things had to go in our favor such that we continue to enjoy God’s good gifts of life and breath.

Praise Father, Son and
Holy Ghost. Amen!

A couple days ago, Calvin’s puppyhood demolition of our home proved to be a blessing in someone else’s life in a rather-unexpected way. I was talking to a good friend who has been really down on himself these past few weeks, and he (like me) had “lost sight of the pear tree” for the multitude of “chewed deck railings” in his life. By recounting this episode from my own life, he was able to see that he was indeed a very fortunate man, albeit one who still has a long way to go. In the midst of his struggles, he has a beautiful wife who loves him, many friends who are committed to him regardless of his failures, he is employed and healthy…on and on it goes.

Taking this approach to all of life, I am convinced, is at least one of the keys to biblical faithfulness. Gratitude, even in the form of “forced gratitude,” has increasingly been the tool that casts Satan out of my life. The more that the enemy tries to call me down into the depths of despair, the greater the need for an iron-fisted grip on gratitude. When temptations to despair come my way, I can think of no better way to cause the enemy to flee than to mine the riches of my life, the good gifts that God has given, and then trust Him with everything that has been withheld.

The day will come when either Calvin or I will depart this life. If he happens to go before I do, then I’ll be able to keep my window screens completely free of claw marks and holes. I won’t have to buy premium dog food anymore. (Indeed, I won’t have to buy any dog food at all!) I won’t be rudely awakened by a wet nose nuzzling my face or hand. I’ll be able to put my shoes down on the floor and not wonder where they disappeared to ten minutes later. My deck railing, once repaired, will stay that way.

And my life will be that much poorer.

Psalm 136:1 (ESV)
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Hebrews 12:28
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.

James 1:17
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

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