Are you #blessed? Or maybe you’re #TooBlessedToBeStressed. Perhaps your coffee mug or new workout T-shirt proclaims this status to those you meet.
Blessed is everywhere. Our kids are God’s blessings. Our new job, pay raise, and bigger house happen because God has blessed us. Our vacation, new car, and girls’ night out all have us feeling so blessed.
When American Tina Boesch moved to Turkey, she quickly recognized that they had a different way of thinking about blessing. People actually spoke blessings to one another. Rather than simply “How are you?” or “Have a good day,” she was hearing, “Health to your hands,” “May the way be open,” and even, “Peace be with you” (6).
Struck by these phrases and their contrast to blessings back home, Boesch set out to better understand the origin and purpose of true blessing. Given: The Forgotten Meaning and Practice of Blessing is a journey through the Scriptures to see how God blesses and how his blessings call us to bless others.
Boesch isn’t only a writer; she’s also an artist and a designer. These creative gifts come through in Given. Rich in both imagery and also biblical substance, the message of Given is a feast. Below I share just three courses among many.
Blessing Is a Shine from God and for God
May the Lord make his face to shine on you.
These familiar words of benediction were originally an Old Testament priestly blessing for God’s chosen people (Num. 6:24–26). But it’s for us today too—we who are set apart, we who belong to the Lord. May he make his face to shine on us as well.
How do we express the good that God wants for those we love? How do we experience blessing through pain and suffering? Why would we bless even enemies? How do we keep spoken blessings in sync with God’s will? And how do we integrate blessing, a concept woven throughout the entire Bible, into the fabric of our everyday lives? In Given, you will journey outside your comfort zone, into a world of blessing as a relational calling―as a way God relates to you and a way you’re called to relate to others. You’ll be inspired to begin the essential Christian practice of being given by God as a blessing.
Boesch dwells here, and it’s beautiful. We see God’s shine in his creation—the streaming sunlight, eyes lifted to heaven, love extending from one to another. We see it in Scripture—when Moses met God on Mount Sinai and in the tabernacle, when Jesus was transfigured on the mountain, and the coming shine when the Lord will be our everlasting light (Isa. 60:19).
We see it in our own lives. When we say, “May God make his face shine on you,” Boesch explains that “it has immediate application: May God’s face illuminate you today; may you walk in the light of his presence right now; may you experience his bright shine in this culture tinged with gray, may you reflect the glory and goodness of God to those you meet” (86). In this way, we’re mirrors of God’s shine, his glory. He shines on us, transforming us and shining through us, that others may see him and his goodness.
Blessing Is an Orientation of Self
Throughout Given, we see how blessing comes from God, first directly through his own hands, then through mediators, and ultimately through us to others. God first blesses in Eden. Then he blesses Abram, promising to make him a great nation, to make his name great, to make him a blessing to all the families of the earth (Gen. 12:2–3). Following Abram, blessing comes through the patriarchs, priests, kings, prophets, and Christ himself. And now, Christ in us brings blessing—we’re the mediators.
Jesus is our model as he continuously blesses in the New Testament: children, meals, on arriving and departing (156–57). But then he disrupts tradition and says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:43–44). Jesus shocks as he calls his followers to love everyone, even our enemies.
Boesch explains, “Jesus is saying that the entire orientation of the self—in thought, word, deed, and prayer—should be focused on the good of others, even our enemies” (159). He isn’t only our model; he’s also our helper, our enabler. We can’t love like this on our own. We need the power of God’s Spirit to help us, empower us, to orient our whole selves to love and bless others, even our enemies.
Blessing Is a Call
The call of Given is that we’re to be a river, not a reservoir, of God’s blessing (7). We receive blessing to be a blessing. Blessing “is most fully expressed in the sacrificial giving of self for the sake of others” (189).
Christ became the curse that he might bless us (Gal. 3:13). And now we’re a priesthood of believers called to go and bless the whole world. “Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross freed us from the curse to find peace with God so that we can live in—and as—blessing” (207).
Christian, we must not store up our blessings where moth and rust destroy. Rather, we must receive and disperse the blessing of peace—eternal peace—that we’ve been given. Precisely because we have peace, we must not hoard it. Instead we’re called to live given.
In a time when we reduce blessings to material gain or personal progress, Boesch calls us back to God’s Word, to the origin of blessing—God himself—and to the purpose of blessing: that we might bless others. Rich in beauty and biblical substance, Given reminds us that as we have been given life, so too, we must give life.
May we live given.