What’s in a blessing?

I’ve been struggling trying to figure out the answer to this question for a while.  I think its probably a basic question that most non-religious people grapple with religion and maybe I’m just dense right now, but I can’t seem to find an answer that satisfies.  Particularly as it relates to having children.

What makes something a blessing?  What is the difference between a blessing and a non-blessing?  Are there such things as non-blessings?

Ok, so I guess that was three questions.

People acknowledge blessings all the time.  You’ll even catch people who aren’t spiritual or religious at all talking about blessings!  Maybe you’ve heard people say things like these:

Oh I met my husband by being in that place at that exact moment and it turns out he’s my soulmate, what a blessing!

The baby was born healthy despite showing abnormality in the ultrasound, what a blessing to us!

or

What a blessing we missed our flight connection because the plane crashed!

Are blessings circumstantial?  Do we only consider things blessings if they’re what we want at the time?  While a couple struggling to conceive would see the birth of their child or an adoption placement as a blessing, a single woman  or a woman struggling to take care of many children already may see that unexpected new life as a burden.

Before I became Catholic I wondered if being a Christian was just about being happy all the time, choosing to think positively instead of negatively.  Well, I can just be optimist without being Christian, thank you very much, I thought.  When I finally became Catholic I had the realization that in a way, being Christian is like choosing to be an optimist because with the good news brought to us through the reality of Jesus and the Gospel message, that’s the only proper response! If you believe God has a plan and you’re here for a purpose, the need to worry about the future subsides.  To not be optimistic and thankful for the little things in life is like choosing to reject a birthday present someone picked out just for you.

So here’s where it gets tricky. As a Christian, I am able to count my blessings in the little things everyday, but this doesn’t take away from the fact that there are some things that are intrinsic blessings.  I realize that Catholics and Christians are different from everyone else: we choose to acknowledge all human life as miraculous and a blessing, no matter what circumstance.  Since we are made in God’s image and likeness, life is an innate blessing.  So is health. (I don’t see wealth as an intrinsic blessing, I might add, I just think its something that we happen to like because it makes us more comfortable).

Children are intrinsic blessings.  The bible repeatedly tells us this.  God tells Abraham that his offspring will outnumber the stars (Genesis 12) and blessed is the man with a quiver full of children (Psalm127: 3-5).  There are countless more verses that I don’t have time to cite.

There is no denying that children are a blessing, so where does that leave people who don’t have children? Are they cursed?*  Or are they just not blessed, not favored?

Really interested to hear what people think about this.

*In the interest of full disclosure, I actually had never thought of this before. After another month of not conceiving and in a rare emotional moment my husband mentioned this once and I didn’t have an answer for him.

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14 thoughts on “What’s in a blessing?

  1. This really struck a chord with me, because of the question ‘when will you start a family?’. I say we started a family the day we were married. Our choice not to have children yet, makes us no less a family – and in my opinion, no less blessed. In fact, I even have a whole post about it, set to publish the day after our anniversary next weekend.

    I think a childless couple is blessed in other ways, it might just be harder to see when you want a child more than anything. I can’t begin to know how you feel, so I’m sure this may be one of those ‘easier for me to say’ type of things. I’ve always felt sorry for people who have children and seem to forget their marriage and each other because all of their attention goes to their children. So, while yes, children are a blessing, I don’t think not having children is a curse or non-blessing, the blessings are there – just maybe how you were looking for them.

    Praying for you dear friend. Praying with all my heart.

  2. I agree totally with the first commenter. I don’t think child-free couples are cursed at all! That is crazy. It is hard to come up with something that is going to sound like an awesome plan B but know that your commitment to each other and to honoring life and pursuing it in the best way possible. It is such a witness to others.

    While I can’t say I know what you are going through, I do know what is like to hold out hope and wake up to disappointment when I read that my temp went down and all that will mean for the coming day. One such day I was scheduled to help at a pregnancy center on a task I love to do and giving that day up as a prayer for all those that can’t see the blessing through the struggles. Serving how I could really helped my mood and my physical well-being. I was moving around and too busy to wallow in endometriosis pain. It doesn’t make life perfect but it helped turn that one day around. Knowing that my lack of children gave me time to help others made me feel like I was still using my unique abilities to help others even if it wasn’t developing my own family at this time.

    Children are definitely blessings, but they are blessings that take up a lot of time. For now, that free time is allowing me to witness other blessings and volunteer more outside the home and I have to find peace with that. Good luck on your journey and prayers for you and your husband.

  3. I struggled with this after I got home from a Theology of the Body conference. The Priest had the women expecting the miracle of life raise their hands. All the women in childbearing years raised their hands except for me. (It was a small crowd I had scoped out in the lobby and when we sat down.) He went on to say that men need to realize that these women get to experience God’s love in a way a man in uncapable of…..I almost died in my chair.

    I left so ticked off and crying at lunch that I couldn’t even get it together. How could something so beautiful as theology of the body not represent the beauty of the barren womb and why was it not written.

    I always wondered what my barren purpose was..I took it to prayer many times….I felt in those moment I was born without a purpose….

    I guess it makes so much sense in the end….I needed it for my marriage to be as strong as it is…My DH and I are well versed in dealing with very emotionally charged subjects and often. We are stronger for this and in the end it’s a reminder that it is him and I.

    I needed to desire my children and realize that they are not just things to be had, but gifts. (I didn’t really understand that in the beginning, I thought I derserved a child)

    I needed to understand and desire motherhood, I had to fight for it, suffer for it, because I do not appreciate anything I haven’t had to work for….

    I needed it for my personal relationship with God, my intimacy with Him, I needed to learn to trust Him blindly through this journey.

    I had a lot of weeds to pull and I needed every single minute of my barrenness. I can’t explain the totaly reason or fully but I know I needed it and I would never give it back because it was such a huge blessing! :)

    So I do not at all believe I was cursed but purposefully picked to be able to carry such a burdensome cross and maybe have a glimpse into what Jesus felt when He carried His….

    Infertility is such a comparison to the cross, it’s such an honor. I was hallowed out in the depths of the desert to come to know and love Him more, so that I could fully rejoice in His abundance and in His resurrection!

    Now I’m getting on a tangent…But it’s a purposeful life and everyone’s story is unique! ;)

  4. I agree with what you said about blessings! Although I don’t think I still get what you consider a “non-blessing.”
    I definitely do NOT believe that people who don’t have children are cursed. I believe this life is a test to prove our faithfulness and our obedience to God. God gives us all tailor made trials that make us stronger in the end. For people who go through their entire life wanting a child and never receiving one, that is their burden/trial in this life. Wanting a child is a worthy desire and someone of lesser faith could lose their testimony wondering why God wouldn’t bless them with something that is good. Then again, there are many times God doesn’t bless us with something good that we want because he knows better than we do. He has a plan for you.
    Also even though you don’t have kids of your own yet, you can be a positive influence/role model in other kids’ lives. I am just now starting to understand that it really does does a village to raise a child. I am so grateful for the adults who love and teach my children whether they are aunts/uncles, grandparents, or friends, and I’m sure the older they get the more grateful I will be for these people in their lives.

    • Totally get what you’re saying about the tailor made obstacles. Its just sometimes I wish I could have the “why” question answered! Thank you for this Natalie!

  5. I don’t think that those of us who cannot have children are “cursed” or not blessed. I had a hard time with this thought process as this IF has dragged along over the years. I finally came to a place where I know (not always feel) that God has a purpose for us. He has a purpose for all of us who cannot have children. We are blessed in our own way, and even though it is not blatently in our faces, the blessings are in our lives everyday. We are blessed to have a home, a job, food, clothes, our spouses. I believe that we are blessed to even deal with this IF. This is God’s blessing towards us, in bringing us even closer to Him. I agree with Natalie, this is a test, a trial, for us, and that will bring us even more blessings!

  6. Oh, man! My situation is a little different in that there’s a very obvious reason that I don’t have children, and that would be due to no man in my life. Nor do I want children without a father, but I do know what it is to see a mother with children, and wonder if that will ever happen for me. I know what it is, as Sew said, to go to a TOB conference and hear the love of God explained through consecrated life, married life, and parenthood, and wonder if that is ever something I will experience, and certainly to wonder if it means that God has completely forgotten me. Those are crazy-tough moments. I really think it’s okay to have those moments. I have felt the strangely the closest to God in those moments when my heart is breaking, I’m asking Him why, and I’m frankly angry with Him. He was there waiting and could take all that.

    Sometimes, in the middle of the worst moments, I don’t think it matters what a blessing is. You just have to breathe and get through the moment. In the end, though, I think that anything that brings us closer to God is a great blessing. Know that I am praying for you in this moment!

  7. Oh, tough question! To which I have no good answer, but I’ll just ramble a bit.

    If getting something is a blessing, then is not getting it a curse? There are instances in the Bible of people being cursed, including with infertility. Do I think that applies in your case? Absolutely not. Do I think people still do get cursed? Maybe – I think we’re far too quick to say that doesn’t happen when it certainly could (for example, to people who intentionally and flagrantly disobey and dishonor God when they know better). I would say that most (all?) couples having difficulty conceiving are not cursed,though. I would suggest they’re blessed in different ways, as your earlier commentors have noted.

    I get your term “non-blessing.” I wonder if we could distinguish between something not happening (or happening) as either something God allows or something God causes. I’m honestly not sure which it is when it comes to having to wait for children. This gets into free will and God’s plan, something that I’ve never quite been able to wrap my head around!

    Sorry to hear about another month. You both still have my prayers.

  8. I love this topic and I’ll tell you what helped me when I struggled with this.. I believe we have to look at blessings from God’s perspective, rather than our human perspective which is often based on wanting to be comfortable here on earth and not so much about preparing for Heaven (of course wanting kids is wonderful and beautiful, but having them without difficulty might not be my best way to get there). If it’s about our souls and eternity, then everything changes and suddenly things that are hard and painful might actually be good for us. Carrying the cross is a blessing. Sharing in even an ounce of Christ’s suffering is a blessing. And being given the opportunity to take a tough stance on Church teachings and life issues is a blessing. 

    Of course that’s not to say that being fertile isn’t a blessing or that fertiles have a harder time getting into Heaven. Of course not. This is based on the premise that God tailors our journey specifically for us (and, while it’s hard for us to imagine, being super fertile can be a cross for some that brings them closer to Christ). 

    I just think anything that attempts to strengthen our relationship with God is a blessing, and that often happens to be the opposite of what society thinks is one. It’s like the beatitudes.. blessed are the meek, those who mourn, etc., etc. Suffering is redemptive and is, ultimately, a blessing. 

    These are just my thoughts though! Hope it helps!

    • Oh man I loved this so much I just read this out loud to my husband! I think besides the issue of looking at it from our perspective and not God’s is that we also heavily factor “time” into the equation as well. From God’s perspective and plan I know that time isn’t a factor, so that can confuse us sometimes because we can’t see the end.
      And THANK YOU for reminding me of those beatitudes! I re-read them again a couple months ago and forgot how much comfort they gave me. “Blessed are those who mourn” because they understand the loss of love. I’ll have to meditate on those again!
      Thank you!

  9. I know what it is to FEEL cursed, even when you know (or at least are quite sure, when you think about it) that you’re not. I have said many times, to myself or my husband, “My womb is cursed.” I guess I don’t actually believe that when I think logically (or even when I get over my hormonal menstrual slump), but that’s how it feels sometimes. I doubt that either of us is cursed, for all the reasons explained by the commenters above. But I understand the feeling.

    I’m grateful for your honesty on the subject. It helps to not feel so alone.

    • I hesitated to write that about being cursed because like you, I know in my head that can’t be true, but it still feels like it! I knew that if I typed it out I’d get a lot of good reflections (like the ones above).
      And we’re not alone (although it does feel like everyone is announcing pregnancies lately!!).

  10. I’ve thought a lot about this post, and I think that I may just have to write a complete post since I don’t know how to fit my thoughts into a comment, and even then I don’t have a solid answer.

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