I've been chewing on something since yesterday's church service. The sermon was on The Art of Reconciliation, which, while meaningful and convicting, is not actually what got my gears turning. During an opening prayer, Pastor Brad said something about blessings.

That one word - blessings - is always of interest to me. The dictionary defines blessing as "a special favor, mercy, or benefit; a favor or gift bestowed by God, thereby bringing happiness." I guess that's the way that most people define it.

I have a different definition. I think that a blessing is anything that brings you closer to God. Conversely, anything that does not bring you closer to God, is not a blessing. This definition has radically altered the way I view many parts of my life.

Depression SUCKS. It is a big, nasty, fire-breathing dragon. And not the kind that you can train or become friends with. It's the kind that will gobble you up and then burn your village, just for fun. It has brought me to places lower than I ever thought possible.

And it has been an immeasurable blessing in my life.

Yes, you read that correctly. Depression as been a blessing. It was (and is) awful, and I hope never to struggle with it as greatly as I have in the past. But when I was laying on the floor, with nothing left to cling to or live for... that's when I found out that God was still there.

He had been there all along. He will always be there. He is all I need. He is merciful and beautiful. He is perfect. I am a weak, broken person, unable to cope with the pain and confusion of life. But God doesn't expect me to cope.

He expects me to turn to Him, and receive more strength and peace than I could imagine. God took me at my weakest, drew me close, and filled me with faith. Without depression, I might not have learned this lesson so deeply or so soon. So yes, depression has been a blessing.

And I freaking LOVE that I can say those words. I have spent years in battle with God on this issue. I have prayed again and again that He would just remove the depression. I saw no reason for it and I felt hurt and betrayed by its continued presence in my life.

So no, I have not always felt that my struggles were a blessing. Oftentimes - perhaps, most of the time - we cannot see the reason for a tragedy or season of pain until we come out on the other side. Sometimes we never understand.

I know that every person and every struggle is different. Perhaps your painful battle is not, in itself, the blessing, but rather the lens which made it possible for you to see the blessings already surrounding you.

Or, perhaps, the struggle was the refining fire. God's way of preparing your heart for the blessings to follow. I do not pretend to know all God's ways or to understand his Mind. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and untraceable His ways! (Romans 11:33)

But here's where I'm going with all this: How many times, particularly as believers in Christ, have we prayed to God, asking for his blessings in our life... and then turned on Him in anger and disbelief when hardship came?

I get it. We have a clear idea of what we think a blessing should look like. What it should feel like. Pain does not make sense to our mind or soul. It's not what we were created to experience! But we live in a fallen world, where things rarely work in the way they were originally intended.

Here's my challenge to us all: The next time a struggle comes up in life - large or small - let's turn to God, beg him for mercy and faith, and trust that He is using our pain to mold us into his Image.

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

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