God’s Blessing Goes Deeper than Any Gift or Experience

Big Questions

We often think of God’s blessing as an achievement or an experience, but it actually goes far deeper. I started learning this lesson at age nineteen.

I had meningitis. I was in the hospital for five weeks. Something happens to you when you’re staring at the hospital room ceiling for all that time. You begin to ask questions you’ve not asked before: What’s the meaning of life? What will happen to me when I close my eyes in death? Is it possible to live with God’s blessing?

The Upside Down Kingdom

Chris Castaldo

The Upside Down Kingdom examines how living according to Jesus’s Beatitudes can cultivate God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, bringing peace and blessing to our broken world.

So I decided to embark on a quest. When I was released, I began practicing Transcendental Meditation under the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Twice a day I’d find a quiet place and repeat my mantra, but it failed to provide me with any answer, any illumination.

I walked on three yards of burning red hot coals with my bare feet at a Tony Robbins seminar in New York. It was hot, it was exciting, but that, too, fell short. I would listen to famous speakers through The Learning Annex—Marianne Williamson and Deepak Chopra. But that, too, fell short.

And then one day, a friend invited me to go to church with her. It was a Wednesday night. I had never been to church on a Wednesday night. I was Roman Catholic. This was my first time going to a Protestant church. So I sat in the back, and I was out of my element.

God’s blessing is not an achievement. It’s not an experience. It’s a person. It’s a relationship.

I was like a pork chop in a synagogue, sitting there waiting for it to get started. We sang for a long time, and then the preacher gets up. He’s like a young Billy Graham and an Al Pacino together—pinky ring, olive green double-breasted suit, big Bible. And he says, “There’s someone here who is looking for life’s purpose; someone here who needs God’s blessing and favor. And I’m here to tell you, look no further. Jesus died for your sins. He paid the penalty for your guilt. And God raised him from the dead, and he’s alive. He’s not a dead historical figure, but a living Savior.”

And that was the moment I understood that God’s blessing is not an achievement. It’s not an experience. It’s a person. It’s a relationship. And so as Martin Luther says, we go to God with open hands, and we receive his gift.

And we keep going to God. It’s not just in our conversion, but every day we present ourselves to him. And that’s the message of the Beatitudes. We step out from the shadows of shame and alienation, and with humility, we present ourselves to God, and we find his grace to be sufficient.

Chris Castaldo is the author of The Upside Down Kingdom: Wisdom for Life from the Beatitudes.

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