This past season has unleashed a firestorm of hostilities, uncertainty, alienation, and loneliness. Before the shutdown, healthcare and insurance company Cigna released research that showed loneliness is at “Epidemic Levels.” Nearly half of all Americans reported feeling sometimes or always alone. During the shutdown, it has increased exponentially. Another study led by Dr. Viviana Horigian revealed that 80% of respondents reported “significant depressive symptoms” during the pandemic. If you google “Epidemic of Loneliness,” you will get over 12 million results.
This chronic sense of alienation and loneliness is a global problem. Before the shutdown, England appointed a “Minister of Loneliness,” and in February 2021, Japan appointed its first “minister of loneliness” because of rising suicide rates. Now, as we head into the Holiday Season, we know depression increases.
Right in the middle of this darkness, God places His family to engage in His mission, demonstrating and declaring His better way of living through Jesus Christ.
Two challenges God’s people face in pursuing His design.
Facilitating a sense of family while engaging in God’s mission is a continual challenge. If we don’t walk together as a family, we can never reflect “the image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:26-28, Ephesians 3:10-21). If we don’t engage in His mission to “be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth,” then the idea of family will become an inward, self-focused group that exists for our personal benefit. We need to walk in both.
What if there was a key that helped build and maintain a sense of family among us while helping us connect effectively with those who are outside of Christ? Well, there is! Giving blessings.
A forgotten but accessible key
When Jesus sent the twelve and seventy out as a family on mission (Mt 9-11, Lk 9-10), one of the first things He had them do was to “give a blessing of peace” to people (Mt 10:11-14, Lk 10:5-7).
Blessing is about speaking God’s life-giving words of praise and endearment over people. Giving a blessing recognizes something positive God highlights in the life or future of someone. Blessings breathe life into their spiritual and emotional lungs and warms their hearts. It can also become a bridge over which we can bring the good news.
When the Bible was being translated into Old English, they chose the term blessing to translate the Latin word benedicere and the Greek word eulogein. Both mean “to speak well of, to praise.” It is where we get the idea of benedictions or eulogies. They are utterances that give identity, appreciation, and release the life of God.
There is tremendous power in words. “Life and death are in the tongue’s power” (Proverbs 18:20-21). In the Bible, giving blessings held a special place. Blessings had a way of releasing Holy Spirit’s activity into someone’s life. Life-giving words stirred by the Spirit build a sense of family and influence others we engage on mission.
I have heard estimates that we hear around 30,000 words in a day. Words are not simply about relaying information. They bring creativity and life. Words spark imagination and God’s prophetic purpose.
Jesus released God’s power through words. Phrases like, “Be healed” (Mark 5:34), “Your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2), “Stand up and go your way, your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19), and “Receive your sight” (Luke 18:42) were words that contained the power of God. Words like those He spoke to Nathanael “behold an Israelite in whom there is no deceit” both showed him that God saw Him and worked like a magnet that drew him to Jesus (John 1:47).
Blessings release God’s life
Giving blessings helps turn the volume down on the enemy’s lies and turn up the volume on God’s word. God uses blessings to strengthen people and draw them to Jesus. The Bible says much about giving blessings. Here are a few of them.
- Isaiah 50:4-5 The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of disciples, That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
- Ephesians 4:16-29 … (29) Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
- Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
- Hebrews 10:24-25 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, (25) not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Blessing communicates, “I see God working in you. You matter to God and us. We are better because you are part of our lives.”
Blessings also strengthen us in battle. Everyone you meet is facing an inward struggle. When God prepared Jesus for a battle, the wilderness temptation, He said, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17, Lk 3:22). Those words helped sustain Jesus in His hour of temptation.
Unspoken words of blessing are lost opportunities to create a sense of family and draw others to Jesus.
We all have touched blessings at family events such as anniversaries, birthdays, Father’s and Mother’s Days. When people exchange blessings through cards and/or heartfelt words, we feel a warm sense of connection and strength. What if we didn’t wait until special days like that but did it daily? This is how the Bible tells us to live, “Encourage one another daily, while it is still called today” (Heb 3:13).
Take a blessing challenge
Bring God’s blessing to people every day (2 Corinthians 10:13-16). Look for and give at least two focused blessings a day during this next season.
- Notice and listen to Holy Spirit about the things He has placed in people all around you.
- Speak to people about what you see and value.
- Speak blessings both privately and publically. Privately, words show the authenticity of your heart towards them, while publically expressed words lift them up among others. Both communicate God’s value and love for them.
- Bless both the small and the large things. Sometimes the little things are the most important to highlight. They communicate to the person that both the big and small things in their lives matter.
- Reveal how the qualities you notice positively affect your life or the lives of others.
- Relay second-hand blessings from others. When you hear something positive about someone that they don’t know about, relay it to them. Even if you tell a positive compliment to someone about another person not within earshot, make sure you tell them later about your compliment. “I was talking to Frank the other day about how well you handled that situation; he agreed and told me something like that about you he witnessed.” This communicates both your and God’s value of them.
- Don’t wait; do it now. Speak, send messages, and write appreciation and blessings in texts and on social media sites.
Let’s bless everyone we can. As we do, we will not only be a blessing, but we will experience God’s blessing in us. This is His covenantal promise to Abraham, and His seed (Us), “I will bless you and you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:1-2).