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A fellow in my Connect group was sharing this week about how he found it irritating when a guy he works with attributed winning a free Subway sandwich in a drawing to “God’s blessing in his life.” He did not begrudge him the sandwich, nor do I think he was challenging the idea that it’s a sweet little blessing to win one. But rather, he was pointing out that when we western Christians say, “I am blessed,” we may more often than not actually mean, “I am prospering.” (Even in a small way, like a footlong Turkey Avocado.) Jesus called “blessed” the meek, mourning, and persecuted. But I’ve so long associated blessedness with comfort that I can’t remember ever waking up with the stomach flu and thinking, Boy, am I blessed today.

I have a passion for God. I hope you do, too. But as one who frequently gets caught up in the cares of the world, I often forget that the purpose of that passion should not simply be to reach some level of personal intimacy with God that I forget the rest of His people. To be sure, I must seek Him in the stillness, and nurture our relationship first. But to what end? So that I stay connected to the vine? Yes. But a branch that is connected to vine will, by its very design, bear fruit (John 15:5). And this fruit includes compassion for the people God has given me to love (and that’s everyone), even when having compassion is inconvenient (and that’s most of the time).

My point is this. Caring about people will always cost us something. It will cost us time, emotional energy, early mornings dissecting scripture with a student, or late nights comforting a friend who seems at wit’s end. We are called to make disciples—and what does that mean? “Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt 28:20). How we fulfill that calling can look many different ways—there is no formula—but one thing is certain. It will cost us something. In order to be a light to others, we have to be able to see where we’re going first. The disciplines we want to cultivate in others, we have to first practice ourselves. The hope we offer others, we must first understand in our own lives.

Caring well for those God has given us to love is a lot of work, and most of it starts before we ever meet them. But here’s the truth. When you’re in it with Jesus—when you’ve rolled up your sleeves and you’re doing the work, accepting His forgiveness for your blunders but striving toward holiness, keeping your eyes open for the opportunity to share your faith, lending your hope to the hopeless even when you’re tired, stepping up to lead even when you feel inadequate to the task—when you’re in it and it hurts, take joy in the knowledge that you may in fact be more “blessed” than you’ve ever been.