The phrase ‘count your blessings’ has become something of a cliché. Worse still, it can sometimes be said unfeelingly when people are in distress. It is vital to deal pastorally and carefully with one another and walk sensitively alongside those who are hurting. This is particularly so in this time of Covid 19. Do you know someone who is broken, grieving, physically unwell, or struggling financially? Do you know a key worker on the brink of exhaustion, or a person who is wrestling with mental health issues in this time of lockdown? Please don’t say ‘count your blessings’! Probably the best thing we can do is journey alongside our friends and simply love them as best we can. Henri Nouwen once said this:
When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain… The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.
Is God calling you to be that friend for someone today?
Alternatively, perhaps it’s you who is in pain. May God give you people who will walk alongside you – although it may have to be virtually rather than physically. If you feel totally isolated do contact someone. I’d love to hear from you. Following Jesus is something we do in community. Of course Jesus himself is our greatest friend and we can turn to him at any time. But so often his grace is mediated to us through other people. We all need friends who care.
Yet for all Christians who are in a place to receive the message, we really can count our blessings or at least try. Doing so each day is a healthy a spiritual discipline, one which strengthens us as disciples and helps us to maintain our joy in Jesus. Psalm 65 shows us what some of these blessings are.
Firstly, there are the blessings of creation. God formed the ‘mountains by his power’ (v 6); indeed, he created the whole cosmos. But more than that he sustains his creation. In verses 9-13 we see this beautifully expressed. Have a look at the Psalm and take time to drink in the poetry of these verses. True, we have spoilt creation which ‘groans’ as a result, waiting for its ‘liberation’ which will take place at the return of Christ (Romans 8.18-22). Yet God still cares for it (and, of course, calls us to join with him in this vital work). By his grace, creation is still wonderful, and so we praise him for all he has made. I’ve found you can do this even in an urban environment. If you’re able to get outside for a walk, run or cycle today drink in the beauty of what God has made. And be grateful.
Secondly, there are the blessings of salvation. Verses 2-5 are a powerful summary of the gospel. We were ‘overwhelmed’ by sins, but God heard our prayer and chose us for forgiveness. All this is perfectly fulfilled in Jesus: it is he who has made this possible through his ‘awesome deeds of righteousness’ (v5). In a time of uncertainty, where so much is changing, our salvation is based on the work of Jesus and guaranteed by God’s promises. No one can take it away. Here is blessing indeed.
Overall, the Psalm speaks of God’s ‘staggering generosity’. What a privilege to recount all he has done and worship our creator and saviour God, the one who blesses us so ‘we shout for joy and sing’ (v 13). Try counting your blessings today. Once you’ve started, you may find it difficult to stop.
 Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude
 Walter Brueggemann, Psalms, Augsburg, 1984, p136