Counting our more complicated blessings…

Posted by on Apr 18, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

You’ve probably been taught to count your blessings. It’s good advice. When we count them we usually discover there are far more than we initially imagined, and it is certainly more refreshing to be in the presence of a grateful person than one who feels cheated and bitter. But what are we to make of what William Sloan Coffin has called “our more complicated blessings”?

The expression is found in a challenging prayer from Riverside Church which Gil Rendle cites in his excellent new book on leadership, Quietly Courageous (2019) p11. Here is an excerpt from it:

And, grant us to count our more complicated blessings: our failures, which teach us so much more than success; our lack of money, which points to the only truly renewable resources, the resources of our spirit; our lack of health, yea, even the knowledge of death, for until we learn that life is limitation, we are surely as formless and as shallow as a stream without its banks.

It got me thinking of some of the more complicated blessings of my life… growing up in Apartheid South Africa – with all the angst of that tumultuous time; the failure of my father’s business during my early childhood, and the financial hardship my family experienced; my parents’ divorce during my teenage years; moving country, not once but twice; some health challenges faced by my children… the list goes on and on. The question is whether they were hardships or blessings, and my considered answer is that each started as a hardship but has settled into a place of blessing –complicated blessings to be sure, but blessings none the less. Without them, I would be a very different person.

In its own way, Easter is a complicated blessing. There was something about Jesus that simultaneously drew out the best and worst in people. On the one hand Jesus inspired people to unimagined heights of humanity, courage and sacrifice. On the other, he unleashed their deepest fears, prejudices and pettiness.

The Cross is a fascinating study of human failure. Why was Jesus crucified? Because he was a threat to the fragile peace the Pharisees has brokered with Rome; because he threatened the suffocating religious status quo of his time (which was not altogether different from the religious status quo of our time); because his friends didn’t find the courage to stand up for him; because Judas was greedy and wanted to make a fast buck (or was perhaps motivated by even more complicated ambitions); because Pilate couldn’t really be bothered to assume the responsibilities of his leadership; because Pilate’s wife didn’t push through on the warning she received; because crowds are fickle and a crucifixion was an interesting distraction; because the Roman soldiers, like workers everywhere, just did their job – albeit with somewhat more cruelty than was necessary; because… because… so many reasons. And at the end a genuinely good man has been crucified. No way this was a blessing.


Except crucifixion is followed by resurrection, doubt moves to faith, fear shifts to hope, reconciliation and forgiveness become real possibilities. Complicated, but certainly a blessing.

Actually, the Cross opens up new possibilities. It births a seed of hope into even the harshest of hardships. It announces that what starts as crucifixion might end as resurrection. It helps us embrace life’s pain with courage and to face it with the gentle confidence that when placed in the hands of the God of Easter, it might morph into one of our more complicated blessings.

Hope that Easter is a special season for you and yours…

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