I love many of the songs that are being sung today in our churches. There is a steady stream of praise songs available and many of them have been used powerfully by the Holy Spirit to touch people’s lives.
I hope though that some of the old songs don’t completely disappear.They have been blessing lives for decades and in some cases centuries and given half a chance will bless people today. I want to share how one of those songs has impacted me over the course of my life. In fact it touched my life just over a week ago.
A few weeks ago my wife and I went through a particularly difficult weekend. On the Saturday we made a three and a half hour trip up north to spend some time with some relatives who have been going through very difficult health issues. My sister-in-law has been suffering from cancer. We had planned to visit her in her home until we found out that she had been taken into hospital. We had the privilege of spending much of our afternoon waiting with her family while she went through emergency surgery. She came through the surgery but is still facing a difficult time.
We also spent some time with my father-in-law who is eighty-seven and in declining health. We treasure every moment that we have with him but we know that at some point God is going to take him home. We didn’t get home until about ten that evening after driving three and a half hours home again.
The next day we had invited some special friends for lunch and a visit. We had a wonderful time with them and in many ways our time together was the perfect anecdote for the previous day.
When they left, I just wanted to sit down in front of the television and relax while I watched some mindless show. When I turned on the television I discovered that it wasn’t working properly and I spent several hours trying to correct the problem.
On Monday we had to make a trip to Toronto to visit an aunt whom Gloria and I have the opportunity to take care of. Gloria had to take her to a doctor’s appointment and then we visited with her for a few hours. We headed home just in time to catch rush hour traffic out of Toronto. The problem was that on this particular day it wasn’t just in Toronto. We spent hours in a traffic jam that stretched all the way from Toronto to Waterloo. What should have been about an hour long trip turned into a three hour test of our patience.
We have had much better weekends. Both of us were exhausted when we finally got home on Monday evening.
In 1897 Johnson Oatman, Jr. published a song that has been a blessing to me over the years every time that I run into a difficult period whether a weekend or a more prolonged stretch of time. Here are the first two verses of that song.
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, when you are discouraged thinking all is lost, count your many blessings name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Are you ever burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear? Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly and you will go on singing as the days go by.
I’m not sure what Oatman was going through when he wrote those words but I am glad that he wrote them. There is something special about stepping back from our problems and seeing the positive side of our lives. Even in the midst of the toughest experiences, God has blessed us.
When I am really feeling the burden of difficult times, I will take a sheet of paper and begin to write. I try to think through the spiritual blessings that are mine because I belong to Jesus Christ. That can easily fill a page all by itself. I have been forgiven. I have been brought into God’s family. I have eternal life. I have a peace that isn’t dependent on the external events in my life. I have God’s message contained in scripture. I know that Jesus defeated death once and for all when he rose from the dead. I have the Holy Spirit indwelling me. The list goes on and on.
Over the years I have been blessed with many relationships that brought joy into my life. I have a wonderful family. I have friends who care about me. I have had teachers and authors who have built into my life and who have deepened my walk with God. I have served as pastor of some wonderful churches who blessed me in so many ways.
I live in an amazing country with so many material blessings. I have had the privilege of getting a wonderful education. I have loved my job over the years. I have had a warm, comfortable house. I have never known starvation.
There are few things that can turn my life around quicker when I start to feel sorry for myself than counting my blessings. When you are feeling down, take your sheet of paper and begin to write. It just might turn your life around too.