This week, my Bible reading schedule took me into the lives of four characters- Samson, Naomi, Ruth, and Saul. Each of them had a similar experience in receiving blessings- and whether they accepted them or not. I am going to tell this as a story of sorts, so you can look up their individual stories in Judges, Ruth, and I Samuel.
Start with Samson. Almost everyone knows he's the one with the great strength and the weakness for evil woman, and that is part of the story. But the story starts before he is born, with a woman of Israel who believes (as 99% of the Biblical women did) that childbirth is the highest calling that a woman can have- and like most of the women God moved through, she was barren. She prayed for a child, and the Angel of the Lord told her she would have one- but he would be special. Even while he was in the womb, she was to have no drink or even grapes; once born, he would be given to perpetual Nazrite vows, dedicated to the Lord from the start. In addition, he would be gifted with tremendous strength, in order to break the Philistine hold on Israel. And both of these things led to his downfall.
See, he knew from the start he was special; he was strong, handsome, respected by the people as a Judge. As a result, he had an arrogance about him that led away from God and towards fallen women. While God blessed him with the ability to carry out His purpose, Samson himself had no real relationship with God. As a result, he finally found himself stripped of his gifts, through his own fault, and chained and blinded before his enemies in the temple of THEIR god. But his fall finally brought him clarity, and he finally turned to God in his extremity. And God blessed him with the ability to destroy more Philistines at his death than he had in his whole life. Now, mind you, he might have done even more if he had used his gifts AND a relationship with God to lead Israel against Philistia, rather than wasting his time bedding their women. Think of a God-blessed army of Israel led by a man stronger than any ten men. But turning to God at the end of his rope changed him from a mockery to his foes to their greatest bane.
Next, look at Naomi and Ruth. Quick synopsis: Naomi was an Israelite woman, and during a famine her husband, two sons, and she moved to Moab. The two sons married Moabite women, one of them Ruth. But then, Naomi's husband dies, and both sons thereafter. The famine ends and Naomi decides to go home and live as a widow on what passed for Hebrew welfare. She sent the two daughters-in-law back home to their families- but Ruth refused, saying, "Your people will be my people; Your God shall be my God."
So back to Israel they go and Naomi- who had not only a husband but ALSO two sons to her past credit- forgot about the blessings she HAD had. "No longer call me Naomi (which means "joy"). Call me rather Mara (which means "bitter")." IOW, I'm not going to appreciate that I still have family in Israel- or that I am unshamed before women in having had two fine children- or that I have a daughter not of my flesh who won't abandon me. Nope, I'm going to spend the rest of my life moping, because I don't have all my blessings NOW.
Ruth, on the other hand did not fall victim to bitterness. She also lost a husband, she as yet HAD no children, and now she was leaving the only land she ever knew to live among strangers in Israel. And she had nothing but obedience to the Lord, obedience to Naomi, and joyfully she went about the task of keeping her and her mother-in-law from starving. And because she "counted it all joy" , she was blessed beyond her dreams, or even her knowledge- as God brought her to her future husband Boaz- and would be, a Moabitess, the great grandmother of David King of Israel- and part of the lineage of Jesus Himself!
And then we have Saul. Gifted with stature, gifted with beauty, Saul became the first King of Israel. Not only did he have the blessing of God, he had one of the greatest mentors in faith he could have asked for in Samuel. Had he been obedient, he would have been the King to at last bring Israel to glory, enslave the Philistines, be the lineage from which the Messiah would spring.
But, he had to take things into his own hands. Instead of putting it into the hands of the Lord that raised him up, instead of abiding by the instructions of Samuel, he had to try to do things in his own strength... and lost his son's loyalty, lost his anointing, lost the help of Samuel, lost his Kingdom. Eventually, he even lost his life... and even that he decided to do himself.
So in the end, we have one who counted on his own joy and almost lost it all; and one who counted her trial as joy and gained more than she could have realized. When you need a blessing and wonder why you aren't getting it, ask yourself- what are you counting? And also, we had one who only looked at what HAD happened to them, not on what could happen; and another who gained everything without raising a finger for it, and lost it all because he had to do it himself. When you want or need that blessing, what- or who- are you looking to?