Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
The familiar words from one of my favourite hymns haven’t been far from my mind lately. In fact, those first two lines of the second stanza from Count Your Blessings by John Oatman Jr. (1856-1922) have been replaying over and over in my head for months. I was in a rut, dwelling on heavy crosses and burdens instead of the uplifting promise in the chorus:
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your blessings, see what God hath done.
I’ve always had difficulty with math, and, when circumstances in my life seemed to tip the scales towards tempests and discouragement, it was easy for me to get bogged down in the technicalities of doing the arithmetic. Even an operation as basic as counting escaped me…until I finally remembered how – at a funeral I attended recently.
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost.
It was a difficult and painful gathering. The friend/father/husband/co-worker we were mourning had chosen to end his own life. Anticipating a small crowd, the family had arranged for a quiet, intimate service at the cemetery only to discover that they had radically underestimated the breadth and scope of this dear man’s influence.
It wasn’t long before cars overflowed the cemetery parking lot, spilling out onto the quiet lanes that meandered through the grounds. In fact, the sheer number of cars turning off the main road caused traffic to back up for blocks.
The little chapel was filled beyond capacity. Crowds spilled into the foyer and overflowed into the hall until the line-up of people wishing to pay their respects extended right out the front door.
As I stood in the midst of the throng – a cross-section of age and gender from all walks of life – I marvelled that a man so loved and respected obviously hadn’t realized the impact he had made on so many lives. And it was there, as I contemplated the many ways he had touched my life, that I remembered my favourite hymn’s promising refrain.
Count your blessings, name them one by one
Obviously my friend had forgotten to count. Or maybe he had started counting the wrong things, like we all do from time to time. However it happened, he had lost touch with his blessings and in the process had become so discouraged that he actually believed all was lost.
Count your many blessings, name them one by one
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
It shouldn’t surprise us, should it? The bible is full of examples of the promises He has made to us but somehow, during times of trials, it is easy to overlook those words of comfort.
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.
Johnson Oatman’s words rang out like a challenge – one that I readily accepted. I have been counting ever since and I think I’m getting the hang of it. Perspective is the key.
From, Lord, how can you let my dog’s lymphoma come back? – to – Lord, thank you for the blessing of six years with that little scamp.
From, Lord, I don’t know how much longer I can work 6 days a week. – to – Lord, thank you for the blessing of having two jobs when so many are losing theirs.
From, Lord, why can’t I breeze into Sears and pick out brand new furiniture? – to – Lord, thank you for the unexpected blessing my neighbour left at the end of his driveway. With a little bit of paint and some new fabric that chair will be perfect in my living room.
Count your many blessings, money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven nor your home on high
This weekend marks Canada’s Thanksgiving celebration and the perfect time to contemplate a harvest of blessings. So, quick, grab a piece of paper – wait, make that a pad of paper – and a pen – oops, you’ll likely need a couple – and start counting.
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.