Recently this post popped up as a memory on my facebook page: He [my son] gives me such joy, has so many talents, and loves Jesus. I am a blessed mother.
And this from a coworker heading to the field for the first time: The entire journey went smoothly without any delays, missing luggage or other problems. What a blessing!! And what about this from the advertising world: Slow wifi at home. Guess I’m studying at the gym tonight. #NOTblessed
I think I’m blessed. I often call myself blessed. I even sign off my emails with “Blessings.” I say “bless you” after someone sneezes. #blessed on social media has become very popular in recent years. And Mary too was called blessed several times in the Scripture. In fact, she is known in many circles as The Blessed Virgin Mary.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But how has it happened to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” … From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.Luke 1:39-45, 48 NIV
Merriam Webster tells me that blessed can mean ether “held in reverence” or “enjoying good fortune.” We typically think we are blessed when we can list the things that make our lives good. We also associate being blessed with being godly or earning God’s favor. We feel blessed when life treats us well, when the mortgage goes through or the new car sits in the driveway.
But is this really what being blessed means? We get a clue from the Greek words Elizabeth and Mary used. The first time Elizabeth spoke, she was invoking a benediction over—or speaking well of—Mary and the baby in her womb. She was recognizing that God had graced Mary with a great honor—a favorable expression from God. This is the word we most often associate with blessing. It is the word that describes our spiritual state in Ephesians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
But in Elizabeth’s second sentence and in Mary’s declaration of herself, a different word is used—makarios, which means “happy or fortunate, truly well off.” It refers to those for whom everything is good. Makarios speaks of life in the kingdom of God and never refers to material or physical benefits. (We will look at other aspects of makarios in future posts.)
So considering this definition, I think these verses could be paraphrased:
Well off (or fortunate or happy) is the one who believes God fulfills his promises.
I am well off (or fortunate or happy) because the Mighty One has done great things for me.
Mary was graced with an awesome task and she rejoiced and gave God praise. She recognized that it was God who was at work doing mighty things. She was blessed, not because she got to birth and raise the Son of God, but because she believed God’s word and responded in obedience: “be it unto me according to your word.”
This, then, is what it is to be blessed: it is to be found ready to obey God with whatever we have at hand. It is to be a tool ready-on-hand for our Lord if ever he wants to use us, and to be used by him.Jessica Snell, writer, editor
So what do we do with #blessed and all the good things in our lives? Be grateful. Practice gratitude. Mary understood grace and was grateful to God for bestowing grace on her. Likewise, it is God’s grace that gave me my son and God’s grace that enables him to have such talents and give me joy. For that, I am grateful. Gratitude is an important discipline. Thank God for your husband and children, your singleness, your joys and also your sorrows. Recognize where they came from and who is the true source of all good things. But understand that is not what makes us blessed.
We are blessed when we believe that God will do what he says he will do. We are blessed when we recognize his ability to do the impossible on our behalf. We are blessed when we acknowledge the mighty things he does.
In what ways are you blessed in this sense?
What promises of God are you believing or not believing today?
Gracious Father, thank you for the good life you give to me out of your generous grace. I have many comforts which I did not earn nor do I deserve. I am so grateful. Today I choose to believe the promises in your word and acknowledge the impossible, mighty things you do on my behalf. In that I am blessed.
For an edited version of this, please purchase Favored Blessed Pierced: A Fresh Look at Mary of Nazareth, available on Amazon.