White flowers as picture for post, "Gratitude".

Count Your Blessings

Count Your Blessings

Are you familiar with the old hymn, Count Your Blessings, by Johnson Oatman Jr.? It was published in 1896, so for over 100 years running, it has lifted the spirits of folks down-cast and down-hearted.

And it’s easy to be downcast, in this world where so very much goes wrong, isn’t it? How easily we are overwhelmed by troubles, as they mount up and our strength to fight them fails. I can rattle off a litany of trials, and I can choose to hold on to those experiences, and recite them in my head, if I want to. It’s up to me. It’s up to you.

EXCEPT…that it’s not. For the Christian, that is, the one who would choose to obey His Lord, we must choose joy. Why? Because He told us to! For a powerful discussion of this mandate, and our response, please enjoy this article by John Piper.

The Truth

Existing within all of our stories is the immense struggle, the timeless struggle, of how we decide to deal with hard truth on the one hand, and the continual fight for joy on the other. Basically, we’ve got:

  • The difficult challenges and
  • How we choose to see it.

And in that very thing, in the choosing of how we will view our challenges, lies our victory, or our defeat. And that’s the truth.

Before Jesus faced the horrible road before Him, He shared His heart with His followers. Find a Bible, and read John 14-17. See how many times The Lord Jesus talks about our joy being full despite the trials ahead. Learn from Him how to keep your joy despite the heart-aches, losses, and challenges ahead.

Don’t Tell Me to “Count My Blessings”!

Right you are. Nobody can tell you to do so. It just doesn’t work. Can’t. In fact, receiving instruction from well-meaning folk to cheer yourself up often has the effect of adding irritation (maybe anger?) to an already overwhelmed psyche.

Here’s some of what you might have heard:

  • just look up
  • look on the bright side
  • count your blessings
  • it could be worse
  • at least it’s not…
  • cheer up!! it’ll all work out fine!


They are probably well-meaning. They probably honestly do care. But we can’t be told to count our blessings. We count them, or not. It’s on us.

Please, Remind Me!

But we can be reminded! And apparently, we need A LOT of reminding. Directions to THANK THE LORD AT ALL TIMES AND IN ALL PLACES are all over scripture.

David had a lot to say regarding this. He told his soul to be thankful and to praise the Lord so often! Here’s a teaser from one of my favorites, Psalm 103. Turn and read it to get the whole thing…

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of his benefits, who…

Then David names those benefits. He names them, one by one. Good idea, King David. Think I’ll join you.


We decide to be thankful. On our own, in the quietness of a moment alone, we make the change. We close our eyes and exhale. We let the hard thing alone for a minute, and we decide, when we open our eyes, to pay attention to what else is in the room.

As a powerful act of the will, because we decide to, we negotiate a trade. We change our focus. We switch out one mindset for another.

Hard Stuff

Problems abound, such as these real issues a friend of mine struggles under…

  • She really did die. How she is missed! The pain, the loneliness, they are real.
  • His health really is failing. All their plans have changed, and now she is his caregiver. The fear, the dread, are real.
  • They really did slam the door on the relationship. Everything they had is now gone. The crushing loss and sorrow, they are real.
  • They really did lose everything in the financial collapse. How they miss their home, their garden. The struggle to accept this new reality, is real.
  • This disabling pain has changed his life. Sleepless nights torment. How much longer?

These challenges are right in front, taking center stage in their psyche. They are the challenges that they wake to every morning, and the ones, that without a miracle. they will go to bed with tonight.

And the other reality, that other thing in the room? It is also very real. It is also very present, and it has the power to raise downcast eyes up into fulness of joy.


Christ really did come. In the flesh, God came down. Out of the radical, astounding love of the Father, and out of holy obedience, Christ came. God’s mercy, it is real.

Eternity is ours, life forever with our Lord, and Friend, and perfect King. An inheritance, as children of the Father, we are heir to. For real.

Christ desires friendship with you, today and every day, promising to be found as we seek, and ask, and knock. He loves you. Wants you. Delights in you.

Look around!

  • sunshine dancing on wavelets,
  • seagulls crying for their dinner,
  • graceful trees, bending in the wind that tousles your hair and smarts your eyes.
  • Behold the wise face of the aged tortoise, and the soft expression of the mewling kitten,
  • the open-mouth smile of the grinning dog,
  • and the faces of a thousand wildflowers, dancing in a field.

And on and on it goes, as we notice, as we look closer, as we count our blessings, as we name them one by one.

We stare into the abundant blessings sent from God like we might at a campfire on a dark and perfect night. We stare deep and long, not wanting to ever tear our warming faces away from this crackling campfire, knowing the deeper meaning of our moments of reflection must not elude us. This cannot escape us, this truth, this reality, this perfection. We don’t want it to. Not ever. Joy.

Sorrowful Yet Always Rejoicing

Two realities exist, side by side. The challenges. And the blessings.

And so we count. We count each and every day. And we mustn’t stop.

Do you suppose this might be a little of what Paul meant in 2 Corinthians 6, when he describes the dichotomies of his life?

“…as unknown and yet well known, as dying, yet behold, we live; as punished but not put to death, as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing, as poor but making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.” 2 Corinthians 6:9-10.

Because in no way is a focus on the joy negate the reality of the trial. This is no denial. This is reality. Both.

Today’s Practice of Praise

Sebastian Demrey and Jimmy Lahaie, artists from the UK, sing this hymn today. I find their style very similar to that of Stephen Curtis Chapman. I hope you enjoy their acoustic take on this classic.

Here are some of the words! Sound familiar?

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God has done.

The Writer

Johnson Oatman, Jr., wrote many other hymns; some may be familiar to you. “Count Your Blessings” is considered his masterpiece, immediately gaining popularity upon publication.

A fun tidbit concerning our author of today’s Practice of Praise. As a child and young man, Johnson Oatman, Jr. greatly admired the singing talent of his father, the Sr. Oatman. Junior wanted to be like his dad. But alas. He lacked the talent.

So Junior turned to preaching. Perhaps he could make a difference that way! But alas, Jr. was no orator.

So Johnson prayed and asked the Lord, how might he use his life in God’s service? How might his efforts encourage the people of God?

Then he noticed the gift he had to use rhythm and a carefully selected scarcity of words to create lyrics, to write hymns. Turns out that this prolific American Hymnodist wrote over 5,000 hymns! Just look what God did, and look how Johnson Oatman Jr. made a difference.

He penned “Higher Ground”, and that delightful and perky hymn, “No, Not One.” He also wrote this lovely hymn, below. I have never heard it, but found the poem a lovely one, and I leave it here for your pleasure:

Alone With God
When storms of life are round me beating,
When rough the path that I have trod,
Within my closet door retreating,
I love to be alone with God.

Alone with God, the world forbidden,
Alone with God, O blest retreat!
Alone with God, and in Him hidden,
To hold with Him communion sweet.

What though the clouds have gathered o’er me?
What though I’ve passed beneath the rod?
God’s perfect will there lies before me,
When I am thus alone with God.

Tis there I find new strength for duty,
As o’er the sands of time I plod;
I see the king in all His beauty,
While resting there alone with God.

John Oatman, Jr., published 1904

Count Your Blessings
Count Your Blessings – Sebastian Demrey & Jimmy Lahaie (Live at UCB Studio, UK)

Album : Heritage Hymns of Our Faith Artist : Sebastian Demrey & Jimmy Lahaie