A quick Twitter search of #blessed will yield literally hundreds, if not thousands, of results. Scrolling through these will give you an idea of how popular culture thinks of being blessed. In the brief time I looked at these Tweets, I found shout-outs for homemade beef barley soup, Christian country music, a life that is doing “so great,” and money in the bank. In short, society defines the “blessed” life as one that’s going all my way.
Scripture uses the word blessed quite frequently, notably in Psalm 1 and Matthew 5. Often this word is defined by preachers as “happy,” which is helpful, though perhaps incomplete. When the Bible instructs us on how to be “blessed,” it’s telling us how to flourish, how to have an enviable existence, or, to put it in more colloquial terms, how to live the “good life.”1
One passage that states this clearly is Jeremiah 17:5–8. In my last post, we looked at the first half, a wasteland life. Today, let’s consider the good, flourishing life.
The person who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence indeed is the LORD, is blessed.
He will be like a tree planted by water:
it sends its roots out toward a stream,
it doesn't fear when heat comes,
and its foliage remains green.
It will not worry in a year of drought
or cease producing fruit.
(Jer. 17:7–8 CSB)
A Grounded, Fruitful Life
Jeremiah pictures the good life like a tree. Unlike the wasteland where even shrubs struggle and fail to survive, this tree has plenty of water and lush soil for deep roots. You can always count on it to bear fruit. In years of drought or years with plenty of rain, it will prosper because of its strong root system and constant water source. It doesn’t fear the summer sun any more than the winter snows.
This is the good life, according to Yahweh. But how do we get from the wasteland to the oasis? Jeremiah states it simply: trust in the LORD and place your confidence in Him.
To Trust Him, We Must Know Him
If we’re going to trust in the LORD, we must be confident that He is who He says He is, which presupposes that we know what He claims about His own character. A relatively brief internet article hardly gives me space to do this topic justice. My goal, though, is not to give you a comprehensive theology of God’s character, but to briefly describe three of His attributes to which we must cling in order to trust Him.2
Trust His Wisdom: He Knows What’s Best
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments and untraceable his ways! (Rom. 11:33)
Our first foundational attribute of God is His infinite wisdom. Unlike us, He knows the end from the beginning and sees all things—past, present, and future—at one time. He views yesterday, today, and a thousand years from now simultaneously, giving Him perspective of our lives that we can never attain or even fathom.
God never acts pragmatically, capriciously, or impetuously. He knows all the facts, and always acts in accord with what is best for you, for your neighbor, and for the world.
I’m sure you can think of circumstances from your life or the lives of someone close to you in which what I just said seems absurd. I can think of those situations as well. However, we must remember a couple of things. First, we are not all-wise. And second, we’re not talking about a distant and demanding God. We’re talking about the God who sent His one and only Son to die in the place of His enemies that they might become His sons and daughters. He turned His back on His beloved Son because He knew what was best. He did then, and He does now.
But just knowing what’s best isn’t enough.
Trust His Goodness: He Wants What’s Best
You are good, and you do what is good; teach me your statutes. (Psalm 119:68)
Knowing what is best for our lives is worthless if God isn’t good. Thankfully, the Scriptures overflow with examples of God’s goodness, even in the darkest of circumstances. On the day that humanity fell into sin and was evicted from the Garden of Eden, God, in His kindness, gave hope, promising that the serpent’s head would one day be crushed by the Seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15). Years later, though the chosen people of Israel would stubbornly chase after false gods, and God would eventually expel them from the Promised Land, He never left them without hope. He always maintained that a remnant would remain, from which the Deliverer would come (Isa. 37:31–32). Even in judgment, God is good.
Jesus compares the heavenly Father to earthly dads. Just as no father would give his son a rock for dinner instead of a piece of bread, so our good and perfect Abba gives only good gifts to His children (Matt. 7:9–11). Once again, we know of situations that seem to contradict Christ’s words. Forgive my bluntness, but, Friend, that’s why we must trust Him. The author of Hebrews reminds us that faith is the conviction of what we can’t see (Heb. 11:1). Suffering is a great fight for faith. Those earth-shaking, gut-wrenching seasons reveal whether our confidence is truly in the Lord or in something else.
We must shout these truths in the light so that we can whisper them through tears in the dark. You may not see it, but may you believe it: God is good.
Trust His Sovereignty: He Can Do What’s Best
Our God is in heaven and does whatever he pleases. (Psalm 115:3)
If God were unable to accomplish what He knew and desired to be for our good, He wouldn’t be worthy of our confidence. What good is an impotent ruler, even if he’s kind? But our God, the Maker of heaven and earth, knows nothing of impotence. The blessed truth of His sovereignty—His absolute and unmitigated control over every inch of the universe—is woven through every page of Scripture. If you want to dig deeper into this important facet of God’s character, read Job 38-42, Isaiah 40, or soak in the prophetic books of Daniel, Habakkuk, or Revelation.
Author Jerry Bridges summarizes God’s sovereignty and why we must keep strong hold of all three of these attributes of God:
No plan of God’s can be thwarted; when He acts, no one can reverse it; no one can hold back His hand or bring Him to account for His actions. God does as He pleases, only as He pleases, and works out every event to the accomplishment of His will. Such a bare, unqualified statement of the sovereignty of God would terrify us if that were all we knew about God. But God is not only sovereign, He is perfect in love and infinite in wisdom.3
Reader, you can trust our wise, loving, and sovereign God.
The Heat Will Come. Will You Abide?
Jeremiah warns us that the “good life,” the life blessed by God, is not free from trouble. He makes no claim that if we trust God completely our lives will be rosy. In fact, he says that the heat will come (v. 8). This furnace of adversity will expose the authenticity of our tree and reveal whether we’re rooted in the dust of the wasteland or in the hearty, healthy soil next to the river.
It’s possible that you could read this post and its companion and walk away thinking that this all depends on you. Like me, maybe you’re a pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps kind of person. Jeremiah foresaw this as well. The very next verse in chapter 17 gives a stern warning:
The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable —who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9)
Our hearts are deceptive, wicked, and terminal. None of us can hope to place our confidence in God all by ourselves, any more than a branch detached from a tree can hope to bear any fruit.
The night before His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples,
"I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.” (John 15:5)
My friend, we must abide in the Vine. In Him we find abundant life, hope, joy, and steadfastness of faith. But even abiding we can’t do alone.
Consider this one last wonderful truth:
“Abide in Me and I in you” (John 15:4).
Jesus abides in us.
1 I’m indebted to Dr. Jonathan Pennington and his book The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing for my thoughts on the word blessed.
2 Here are some books on the character of God that I recommend if you’d like a deeper dive:
None Like Him by Jen Wilkin
In His Image by Jen Wilkin
None Greater by Matthew Barrett
The Knowledge of the Holy by AW Tozer
3 Jerry Bridges. Trusting God, NavPress: Colorado Springs, 1988, Pg 45