If you read the national newspapers, and like the cartoons, the name ‘Michael Leunig’ is probably familiar. Many readers know him as ‘Leunig’ and love his cartoon characters. He also paints and writes, and is one of Australia’s living treasures. There’s something quite profound in his messages about life and disappointments. He makes you think about the deeper issues—and that’s a good thing.
In January 2016 Michael was working on his farm in Victoria one day and got into an underground bushfire shelter when suddenly the steel trapdoor fell on his head. He didn’t notice much damage at first, but it was a critical incident. Four weeks later he had a seizure and rushed to hospital with bleeding on the brain. It was serious, but he recovered. It was a serious accident. He did have some minor damage, but all was OK.
Here’s what he said to some friends: “There’s a bit of an epiphany in a near-death thing. It’s caused upheaval in my life and my values have altered. I still want to work and paint and write. Blessings come in strange ways.” I found his comment interesting—“blessings come in strange ways”. He certainly wasn’t expecting to have a surgery on his bleeding brain, but accidents happen to anyone.
I want to say that life is more than just a series of experiences. It is the people we meet along the way that makes life more interesting and teaches us the most important lessons—even when terrible things happen to us. The blessings of life often come in the most unexpected ways. We know that the world usually defines blessings as money, fame, power, success, or reaching the top of the ladder so we can look down on the other people. That’s what the world thinks about when it begins to talk about blessings.
C.S. Lewis was right when he said, “When we lose one blessing, another is often most unexpectedly given in its place.” That’s how God works. He doesn’t always give us what we want but he always gives us what we need. That’s a huge difference, so our loss may end up being great gain; our request may end up being better; and whatever it is we pray for or blessing we have or lose, God always knows what he’s doing. We can trust him infinitely more than we can trust ourselves.
Blessed is a Christian word. It is a spiritual word. It is a biblical word. People may talk about ‘blessings’ in their lives, but a Christian has a different emphasis—only the child of God truly knows what it is to be blessed. It is also worth noting that Jesus both began and concluded his earthly ministry blessing people.
So what does it mean to be blessed? The word ‘blessed’ that Jesus used in the Sermon on the Mount is from the Greek word makarios, which means to be happy or blissful, but it also means a self-contained happiness. The Greeks called the island of Cyprus ‘the happy isle’. They believed that—because of its geographical location, perfect climate, and fertile soil—anyone who lived on Cyprus had it made in the shade. And the term they associated with the island was makarios. They believed everything you needed to be happy was right there on Cyprus.
We can’t all move to Cyprus, but the idea is that our happiness is independent of our circumstances. It is self-contained, meaning that regardless of what is happening to us externally, we can be truly happy internally. We can be genuinely blessed as followers of Jesus Christ. In this way the blessings of life are from God, no matter how small. Each day is a gift from him to be enjoyed.
The Bible says in Ephesians 1:3: “Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for the spiritual blessings that Christ has brought us from heaven”.