Maybe like me, you have hopes that the coming Lunar Year will be better than the last one. If this last year was like a product that you bought at a shop, you’d return it wanting your money back. This raises a question, how do we judge the success of any particular time? At a new Lunar Year, we wish one another blessing for the year to come. What does it mean for us to be blessed?
The place in the Bible where people often go to reflect on blessedness is the Beatitudes (Matthew 5). It’s where Jesus repeats what it means to be blessed. People often equate blessedness to being happy, so these verses are sometimes translated, ‘Happy are those who… ’. But as you read the Beatitudes, they seem an odd description of happiness. ‘Happy are those who are poor in spirit… Happy are those who are mourn… Happy are those who are persecuted because of righteousness… ’.
This confusion starts to be resolved when you look closer at the Gospels. Jesus has a counter-intuitive understanding of blessing. Blessedness doesn’t come from having success, comfort, or control of your circumstances (indeed, Jesus’ followers should expect hardship and persecution). Rather, blessedness comes from having a relationship with God: from knowing God and being known by Him, and from walking in His ways. This blessedness comes from knowing Jesus as the one who became poor for us, suffering the pain and indignity of the cross on our behalf, so that we can know the riches of an eternal relationship with God.
Understanding this helps us to make sense of what Jesus says later in the Sermon on the Mount, ‘Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’.
Ultimately, if we seek blessing through our external circumstances, we’ll never be happy. But if we seek Jesus and his Kingdom, we’ll always have a deep source of contentment and joy that does not change with circumstances.
Whatever this new year brings, may you be blessed in knowing God’s love for you in Jesus and the joy of serving Him. Wishing you all a wonderful Chinese New Year!