Count Your Blessings?
The phrase “count your blessings” has always struck me as cheesy and horribly insincere. People seem to break it out at the worst times. When someone tells me that a water pipe burst in his basement and ruined half of his worldly possessions, he doesn’t want me to tell him that it could be worse and that he should count his blessings. He wants me to tell him about a good Christian missionary plumber who feels called to do all his work for free. He wants me to say, “I happen to have this entire week off from work, so I’ll be over every night to help you clean up.” When I say, “Count your blessings,” he probably feels like saying, “How about you count my blessings, and while you’re doing that I’ll go take some of your blessings.” I’ve never been a fan of telling people to do a blessing count, particularly when their lives are falling apart.
More Than We Can Count
But in recent months my perspective has begun to shift. I’ve started to realize that I’m rich beyond most people’s wildest dreams. That I enjoy more material blessings in one day than most people enjoy in a lifetime. That for reasons I can’t explain, God allowed me to be born in one of the richest countries in the world and to enjoy its benefits.
If I had received the blessings of the gospel and nothing else, I would have enough to be content for eternity. But I’ve received much, much more.
Discontentment happens when I don’t have what I want. Contentment happens when I realize that I have so much more than I deserve.
Contentment happens when I realize that I have so much more than I deserve.
So for a few moments, let’s put all our desires on hold and ponder the great mountain of blessings that we already have. James 1:17 says, “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.” We have received so many good gifts. Let’s stop obsessing about what we want and start marveling at all that God has given us.
Giving Thanks: A Matter of Perspective
Compared to most of the world, I’m a king living in a palace. I’m surrounded by luxury. I have more than I need, more than anyone needs. And I still can’t figure out why God has blessed me. Why do I have these blessings and most people don’t? Why is my little girl healthy when many little girls are so weak from malnutrition that they can’t even stand? Why do I have clean water that isn’t full of horrible parasites? Why is a broken bone a minor inconvenience for me and a catastrophe for someone living in Africa? I can only come to one conclusion: God has been very kind to me. And I can only see one appropriate response: gratefulness to God.
I want the kind of gratefulness to God that creates contentment in my heart. I may not have everything my heart desires, but I have more than most people desire, and I have infinitely more than I deserve.
I want gratefulness to God that shuts my complaining mouth. I complain about things that would cause most people to rejoice. I have a car that can break down. I have a house that needs repairs. I have a computer that occasionally goes spastic. I have access to health care when my normally healthy body gets sick. I throw things into the garbage that people in other countries would treasure. The blessings I’ve received leave no room for complaining in my life.
The great Puritan Matthew Henry was once robbed of his wallet. After pondering the incident, he wrote the following words in his diary:
I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.
Being held up and robbed probably didn’t rank high on the enjoyable experience scale for Matthew Henry. But rather than give in to the temptation to complain, he paused for a moment and took stock of all that he been given. He had never been robbed before. He was still alive. They took all he had, but it wasn’t very much. And by the grace of God he was the one being robbed and not the other way around. Matthew Henry counted his blessings, which in turn stopped him from complaining.
“All this, and Christ too?”
While preaching a sermon, Charles Spurgeon said, “I have heard of some good old woman in a cottage, who had nothing but a piece of bread and a little water. Lifting up her hands, she said as a blessing, ‘What! All this, and Christ too?’” The old woman understood that in Christ she had everything and that everything in addition to Christ was pure blessing. I have far more than a piece of bread and a little water.
Every time I step into the shower or enjoy a cup of coffee or watch a football game, I want my heart to be singing, “All this, and Christ too?”
This excerpt was adapted from The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence by Stephen Altrogge.
Stephen Altrogge is a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, where he leads worship, preaches, and works with youth. He has written several worship songs for musical projects produced by Sovereign Grace Ministries and is the author of Game Day for the Glory of God and The Greener Grass Conspiracy.