By Paige K Slighter
bless·ing: a prayer asking for God’s favor and protection.
“A blessing is a circle of light drawn around a person to protect, heal and strengthen.” – John O’Donohue
It’s easy for us to experience discouragement in our efforts to help one another, especially now. We want to be by our friend’s side, casting away their loneliness. We want to hold our parents’ hands as they smile at us through the glass of the nursing home window. Shelter in place and social distancing are taking their toll on our need for face to face community. What can we do when we feel helpless?
I was already beginning to feel overwhelmed by the needs of the world, when a close friend sent me news of her son. He had just returned home from working in another country, culture shock was setting in, and he wasn’t coping well. In his isolation, he had turned to alcohol and my friend was worried. At first, I was at a loss for words, but after much time in prayer, one word hung on my heart: blessing.
Theologian William E. Brown writes, “God’s intention and desire to bless humanity is a central focus of his covenant relationships.” That’s why we see blessings as a common thread throughout Scripture. From the beginning, God blesses humanity, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). Though the effects of our fallenness bring the opposite of blessings, Jesus came to be the ultimate blessing. And he has given us his authority and power to bless others. Brown says, “As a result of receiving God’s blessings in Christ, believers are called to be a source of blessing to the world.” And what better way to bless others than through our words?
Words are powerful. Proverbs 18:21 says that our tongues hold the power of life and death. So, it seems, we are fully equipped to call forth God’s many blessings to those in need. The key in all of this is recognizing that God is at the center of it all. According to Christian writer Dallas Willard, “Blessing is the projection of good into the life of another. It isn’t just words. It’s the actual putting forth of your will for the good of another person. It always involves God, because when you will the good of another person, you realize only God is capable of bringing that.”
When we bless someone, we’re tapping into the divine community of the Trinity (God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit) to bring forth good in someone’s life. It’s a beautiful conversation revealing God’s heart. In his book, To Bless the Space Between Us, John O’Donohue writes, “A blessing is not a sentiment or a question. It is a gracious invocation where the human heart pleads with the divine heart.”
So, what does it look like to bless someone? It can simply be a prayer that only you and God know about, or you can share your heart with the person you’re blessing. At this time when it’s hard to bless someone face to face or even over the phone (as was the case for my friend), all we can do is follow the example of Christ who blesses us even when we cannot or will not hear it. When others are open to hearing good wishes, by all means, call them up and bless them in Jesus’ name. We have to be especially discerning when the person we’d like to bless is not a Christian. Sometimes we have to keep that blessing to ourselves or ask them first and explain what we mean.
Blessings can be short or long, but in both cases they’re intentional. Set aside some time in your day and write down blessings for others. Then speak them out loud. You can make them up as they come to mind. Greg always suggests, use your imagination! If you’re having trouble thinking of blessings, just use Scripture.
Author and pastor Max Lucado has some good ones too.
Blessing for Encouragement
“May you know the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ today. Let his spirit overshadow and consume you. I pray that it gives you strength and courage and focus in everything you do today.”
A Blessing for Courage
“May God give you the confidence of Daniel to face any crisis. May you have the assurance of Moses and Abraham that God is on your side.”
Spiritually speaking, it can be a revelation to realize that we’re not helpless in these times, but have the power to bring God’s goodness into the lives of others. Jesus makes it possible for us to enter into his loving kindness and share it with others. O’Donohue writes, “It is ironic that so often we continue to live like paupers, though our inheritance of spirit is vast.” When we start to feel powerless to help others, let’s turn our hearts to the author and provider of all blessings.