Ann Voskamp had an excellent post a few days ago detailing that November is the month that brings the highest spike in depression. I can get that. As the world turns grey around us, the thicker clouds block out the sun and the world feels like a much colder place. And the beginning of the holiday season is not joyous for everyone.
Her suggestion? That writing down 5 things daily that you are grateful for can increase happiness by 25%. I’m not exactly sure how the percentage of happiness is calculated, but the point has merit nonetheless. Focusing on the positive breeds positivity.
It’s part of a tactic we use often when we speak of blessing. Comparison brings clarity.
Staci and I deal with this a lot during the holiday season because we spend time with extended family. We have close relatives on both sides whose lifestyle is much different than ours. They have large homes and live in exclusive neighborhoods. Their cars are fancy and new. They go on nice vacations and have expendable income. So when we spend time with them, the natural comparisons we make are not kind. It can make us question the life choices we’ve made which make that lifestyle pretty much unattainable. And we can get a little depressed.
So it always helps to make opposing comparisons. When we realize that we actually still have quite a lot more than many, many people around us, it’s hard to stay sad. It causes us to be much more grateful for what we do have. The comparison helps us see much more clearly.
This is how we talk about blessing. We “count our blessings” so that we understand we really do have more than we realize. You’ve probably seen this happening in your Facebook feed this month — people listing something every day that they are grateful for. That’s because it really does help us when we focus on the positive.
But “counting our blessings” is not what Jesus was talking about our readings this week. Jesus didn’t say You’re blessed despite being poor. No, he said Blessed are the poor. It’s not that the poor should be happy because blessing lies on the other side of pain. Rather, as Trevor said so well yesterday, real blessing is found in poverty, hunger, and weeping.
Blessing is not found despite weakness. The blessing is in the weakness.
It would be one thing for Staci and I to look at our living situation and count our blessings. Sure, our house in Texas still has not sold, so we’re living in a cramped apartment. But we have a roof over our heads and warm beds to sleep in at night. Many do not. Therefore we are grateful for what we do have.
It is another think entirely to see the blessing that we would not have unless we were in this situation, though. Because what we understand now is that our joy is not dependent on our residence. That our life choices, while strange to some, have made us understand the value of community and friendship. We have seen love displayed and generosity abound in others. We have seen what life is really about. And that truth is worth more than 10 houses.
In the midst of a situation we have lamented so often, we find rich blessing. It is the blessing only found in weakness. This is what Jesus was talking about.
So in this month of thanksgiving, let’s count our blessings and give thanks to God for the good things in life. But let’s also go beyond the comparison game. May we all take a look at the weak parts of our lives. Perhaps we will find some flowers growing up from those rocks.
And maybe we can all find the blessings only found in weakness.