As Chinese New Year came to a close, I sat at my desk trying to pen down some thoughts for this perspective. I was overwhelmed by the feeling of helplessness and yet also felt the state of blessedness as so many things had happened between the period of Christmas and Chinese New Year.
I was feeling helpless for my parents because after more than 40 years of marriage, they finally got divorced as it is near impossible for them to live with each other any longer. I was caught in between them dealing with their divorce terms and conditions. I was helpless because I couldn’t keep a promise to a friend and co-worker in ministry and got him into trouble. My honor as a person was almost torn into pieces and brought shame to myself. I was helpless because I couldn’t ease my wife’s mounting pressure with daily tons of things that she needed to deal with i.e. children’s studies, household chores and her small business. I was helpless after receiving news from a doctor that my younger sister who is a single was diagnosed with Schizophrenia, a mental condition that requires long term medication. In the midst of helplessness, where does the state of blessedness come from? The answer can be found in Psalm 84.
Psalm 84 is a poem apparently written by the Sons of Korah, a guild of temple musicians who had once been temple doorkeepers. While Psalm 84 is broken into several stanzas, the psalmist primarily focuses upon three keys to a blessed life.
The first key can be found from verses 1-4. The psalmist begins by desiring to be where God dwells. He perceives the dwelling place of the Lord as lovely. His spirit desires to be in the courts of the Lord. In fact, his desire is so strong that he says that he faints for the chance to be in the courts of the Lord. His heart and his flesh sing for joy to the living God when thinking about being in God’s presence. Verse 3 goes on to describe how even the birds find a home in the dwelling place of God. This portrays the presence of God as an inviting place to come and be, not a place of fear. Thus, the praise of verse 4, “Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise!” So, the first key to a blessed life is those who can always be in God’s presence.
Verses 5-7 describe the efforts and work the pilgrim have to make three times a year to keep the feasts of the Law of Moses. We are given the picture of the difficulties that they had to endure, the danger they have to face going through the valley of Baca (which means the valley of weeping). The people not only need to overcome physical hardships but also the emotional hardships. However those who find strength to overcome the hardship will be able to come to a place of spring. Thus, the praise of verse 5, “Blessed are those whose strength is in you.” So, the second key to a blessed life is those who find strength in the Lord to overcome his life’s difficulty.
Verses 10-12 describe the psalmist’s desire to honour God by doing the right things. Verse 10 states that the psalmist would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of his God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. Verse 11 shows the reasons behind his actions, it says “no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” God will bless us when we make the right choice to honour Him. However, making that choice takes courage and it takes even more courage to trust God that after the sacrifice God will bestows favour and honour on him. Thus, the praise of verse 12, “Blessed is the man who trusts in you.”
福 Coincidently this 3 keys of blessed life found in Psalm 84 can also be found in the Chinese Character “Fu”. This Chinese character is commonly used as a greeting for blessings during Chinese New Year.
The Chinese character Fu means blessing. Fu is made up of four individual words. The four words are God, numeric one, mouth and plantation. The word God shows that to be in the state of blessedness, God must be present in a person’s life, which coincides with the first key of a blessed life found in Psalm 84. The numeric one represents a person and with the 3rd word meaning his mouth. It shows that to be in the state of blessedness, a person will have to depend and trust God for his food, which coincides with the 3rd key of a blessed life found in Psalm 84. And the last Chinese word meaning plantation shows that to be in a state of blessedness, he has to find strength in God to finish the work or plantation that God has assigned to him. This coincides with the second key to a blessed life found in Psalm 84. So as I ponder over the Chinese Character “Fu”, I asked myself these 3 questions, “Do I have the presence of God in my life?” My answer is, “Yes!” “Did I trust God that I will always have food to eat and will not starve?” My answer is, “Yes!” And lastly, “Did I find strength in God for the work that he had called me to do?” My answer is also, “Yes!” So my conclusion is that even though I was helpless in the midst of my trouble, I am still blessed.
So friends, I hope you will also find God’s blessing in your life in the year to come. Blessed Chinese New Year!
Pr Alvin Lim
February 12, 2012