Blessings. What are they? Well, that’s an easy question to answer. All I need to do is check my list.
Maybe another name for the list could be my itemized expectations—if I’m keeping the commandments. At least my version of the commandments. After all, how many times did the prophets in the Book of Mormon say if we obey, we will prosper in the land?
Some decades ago and with this promise (and my list) in mind, I felt impressed by the Spirit to leave my good-paying job and become involved in a start-up company. Things went fine for about a year, maybe two, and then . . . . Well, I don’t know how it could have been worse financially. Or emotionally for that matter. The business tanked, we lost our savings, and I was unemployed—with a wife and five children to provide for.
But how could this happen? What about my list?! I was doing all the things that qualified me for a current temple recommend. I was serving in the Church (on the high council at the time). I was trying to be a good husband and father. And I sought spiritual guidance as I made my decision to leave my employment. I was certain that the Spirit directed me to do what I did.
What went wrong?
Actually, nothing went “wrong.” I just needed to make some adjustments in my perception of what constitutes blessings.
There are all kinds of reasons I need to read the scriptures every day. An important one is that I just might read something that gives me special insight; a revelation that will be of specific help to me that day. I'm a believer in that. It has happened to me countless times over the years. And that's what happened this time as I read Luke 4:1-2:
And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being forty days tempted of the devil. (Emphasis mine.)
It would be difficult to exaggerate the impact this passage had on me then. While Joseph Smith’s translation of this scripture varies a little from this, my personal revelation came from this King James rendering.
The Spirit led the Savior into an extraordinarily difficult situation. He was led into a wilderness of deprivation where he would be directly assailed by Satan. That was what the Spirit did! Why? There are lots of answers, including, apparently, the needed growth and strengthening that took place in the Savior that helped prepare Him for his ultimate sacrifice and atonement. (See Doctrine & Covenants 93:11-14 for example.)
For me, this was a Eureka! moment.
Perhaps for the first time in my life, I began to seriously consider what constituted a blessing. Here's what I determined. If I am seeking to keep my covenants, I will be blessed with every experience and wherewithal I need to help me come closer to the Savior and assist me in magnifying Him.
That’s what happened here.
As a result of this experience, I saw more clearly than ever before some aspects of my life that needed to change. I was more determined than ever to be a better and wiser father and husband. I was more compassionate for others who had failed. And certainly, at least momentarily, this very humbling experience gave me a leg-up on my ongoing personal struggle with pride.
There was nothing Pollyannaish about these realizations for me. I still needed to provide for my family and didn’t know how I was going to do it. But I had hope that doors would open so I could. Over time, that happened. But not without me receiving a hopper full of additional learning blessings; all of which pointed me to observations and understandings that helped me draw nearer the Savior.
Needless to say, my itemized expectations list was tossed. Over time, my prayers were simplified. Besides my thank-you list—that one seemed to expand—I began to ask only to have experiences that would help me know the Savior; to become more like Him; and, to have sufficient for my needs.
The standing promise of the Lord that I would prosper in the land if I were faithful, took on a whole new meaning for me. It really had little to do with temporal conditions that had been so important to me before, but that by definition were fleeting. It had everything to do with becoming who I could become through the grace of Jesus Christ.
And the blessing, the gift, the prospering in the land, I began to see, was any and every experience, no matter its hue and shape, that would help me in my quest to become one with Him.