Should You Feel Guilty For Your Blessings?

Guilt of BlessingsMy heart has been especially heavy this week. My second cousin, in her late 30’s, was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. A more distant teenage cousin passed away unexpectedly. A 19-year-old girl Bryan and I know lost her fight with cancer. I cried while reading a story about thousands of Ugandan children who suffer from “nodding disease,” which causes seizures and has led parents to tie their children to trees to keep them safe – as if starvation and war weren’t enough in Uganda.
 
I have been praying daily for all of these people and their families. This morning, I started to feel like my prayers have been an ongoing petitionary sequence of “please Lord,” so I made an effort to subsequently thank God for all of the blessings in my life.
 
Thank you Lord for our home. Thank you for all of our food. Thank you for my loving husband. Thank you for my three beautiful children. Thank you for the health of all of us. Thank you for all of our wonderful parents. Thank you for both of our jobs. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
 
After praying this, I felt intensely guilty and literally could not continue praying. The stark contrast between “please Lord, be with my cousin while she fights for her life” and “thank you Lord for our health” made me want to crawl into a tiny hole of shame.
 
This has been a “struggle” for me for a while. I don’t even want to say it because even that feels guilty; to suggest that I struggle with feeling “too” blessed sounds outright insulting to those who are struggling with much bigger things. That said, I have to admit that this “struggle” is a challenge to my faith.
 
I’ve always disliked the word blessing. I think of “blessing” as something that God directly gives you. So, if I consider everything I have to be a blessing in this sense, it means that God has chosen to give me all kinds of wonderful things and has chosen to withhold those things from others. There is no way I can reconcile that. I’ve had to conclude for my sanity that this sinful world has led to extremely varying levels of pain, and that’s not due to God directly giving some people things and not others. I believe He intervenes to give things and take things away for various reasons, but that we have no way of knowing when that is the case. For that reason, we just have to give thanks for everything, as the Bible says, while not trying to determine the immediate “reason” behind every blessing (or lack thereof).
 
With this rationalization, I get by. But I still have a complaint for God. Blessings in this world – whatever their immediate reason – are horribly distributed.
 
This morning, I literally couldn’t pray another word because of the tension between those contrasting sentiments of sorrow and gratitude. My mind went blank. And then I heard this:
 
If you feel guilty for your blessings…maybe you aren’t doing enough with them.
 
If you feel guilty for your blessings…maybe you aren’t doing enough with them.
 
No, I didn’t literally hear God’s voice. (For the record, I never have.) But as much as ever in my life, I felt the Spirit putting something specific on my heart. So much so that it literally took my breath away for a moment.
 
I suddenly realized that I wouldn’t feel guilty if the output of blessings from my life equaled (or exceeded) the input of blessings I have received.
 
If I spent less time “struggling” to understand why I’m sitting on a pile of blessings and more time being a blessing to others, I would find joy rather than guilt.
 
If I spent less time worrying about how to raise my kids to simply feel grateful and more time teaching them how to translate that into action, they would learn joy rather than guilt.
 
As long as what we have does not equal what we give, the imbalance should result in discomfort. It’s far more common to hear people talk about the need to eradicate the guilt of blessings in order to enjoy life’s God-given abundance. I agree that God wants us to find joy in our blessings. But I’m now seeing that the joy He wants us to find in them best comes from passing them on to others.
 
Do you ever feel guilty for your blessings? Maybe you aren’t doing enough with them.

13 Comments

  1. Rosann on March 9, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    Ohhh, I love this way of thinking. Very well said. Thank you for this!



  2. David Crain on March 9, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    Happiness begins with a great full heart. And, each of us has a moral responsibility to be happy. After all, it is the unhappy who make the world a bad place. I like to begin my classes by making the students stop and recognize the beautiful day, our beautiful classroom facilities, and the beautiful opportunity we have to learn.



  3. Denise on March 9, 2012 at 7:37 PM

    I have had a similar “struggle”. Thank you for sharing what was prompted by the Holy Spirit. It makes perfect sense, but of course, why wouldn’t it?



  4. Cindi on March 10, 2012 at 7:00 AM

    Thank you so much for the perspective and reminder to be thankful for and appreciate the blessings we are given.



  5. Angelique on March 20, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    Thank you for this post. Sometimes I feel so blessed that I actually start to WORRY that something terrible is going to happen! My husband thinks I am crazy!



  6. citrina on December 8, 2012 at 1:41 AM

    I have been feeling like how can I pray for blessings in a world of people that pray to live like I. In reading this I realized that God put me in this position and gave me this guilt so I can help out. I’m crying right now because my spirit feels refreshed. I know what I have to do now… God bless you for your post!



  7. Anne on December 14, 2013 at 9:36 AM

    Even as I thank God for my blessings, my mind wanders and I am so distracted by them. The internet, my ipad, just the comforts of life I have been blessed with. Then the distraction and ease of which we can obtain more “stuff” , of which I am so thankful for but, hmm, the word that just came to mind is unusual, but it is like a “trance.” I feel guilty for my blessings, want to do more for God with them. Your post and all your readers’ responses have been a blessing to me this morning. I read each one and cried because I see others struggle with thevsame thing. Lately I gave been reading how the “Brother Lawrence” , a 16th century monk, found constant communion with God in the middle of the commotion of a huge monastary kitchen. and he said for everything he did, he did it for God. He tried for 10 years on his own strength and then gave up, felt worthless,and wanted to “end his days” because even in the monastery,he couldn’t keep constant communion with God. Then, everything changed. God did it for him, and he found God’s presence in all his distractions of a loud, busy kitchen. So I think that is what it is all about. As your post and others said, we don’t know why and how distributions of “stuff” and “comfort” are given. But we can do everything for God, confess we don’t have the strength but have the desire, like Brother Lawrence. We have been given it for a reason, but we can find God in it too, in everything, in the comfort, thank him for all our feelings, even guilt. Brother Lawrence figured that out 400 years ago. And I am so thankful for all your readers’ posts, wish I knew how to “reply to all!”



  8. smbateman on January 16, 2014 at 2:35 PM

    I have been feeling this way lately and when I did a google search looking for advice I found your blog. I feel like you hit the nail on the head, although I am not quite sure how to do more with my blessings…



  9. Lindsey Moore on September 13, 2014 at 3:31 PM

    Thank you so much for this, it’s so amazing what God places in front of you to make you see what he wants you to see, it is almost at times to complex to even grasp but I have to remember that God is leading us to do great works for him!!! Thank you again!



  10. Amanda on November 15, 2015 at 6:13 AM

    Thank you for this. I asked Google why am I so blessed when others suffer and your blog came up. It’s not that I feel guilty exactly….I just don’t feel more worthy than anyone else on this planet. It’s little things like going to one of my two loos and soiling perfectly good drinking water and flushing it while others thirst or sitting in my safe rural village home in England while others are on a forced march from Syria to Europe. Even when I was diagnosed with cancer, I was diagnosed in England so treatment was free and plentiful and I’m now disease free. I feel humbled and I was confused until I read your advice from the Holy Spirit. Thank you!



  11. cecy on September 12, 2016 at 10:25 AM

    thank you so much for sharing. I have been carrying this burden of guilt for too long.After reading this blog i felt so much relief



  12. k on November 7, 2016 at 7:56 AM

    I too feel very blessed by the Lord. My prayers mimic yours, I pray for those who are hurting or suffering and then I give thanks for all the good in my life. My family is healthy, I have a husband who loves me and our children, who works hard and takes care of us. I work too and I am so thankful for our jobs. I also agree that we need to use our blessings to bless others. We are not rich but we have more than enough money to support ourselves and we live modestly. I am generous with our money, I help people when I can but I feel like it’s never enough. Money cannot buy good health… some things money just can’t buy. But I”ve had the same conflicting thoughts as you. This Christmas I will make more of an effort to seek out others in need and try to do what I can to make someone else feel special and loved. Thanks for commenting on this.



  13. Deb on July 22, 2017 at 1:14 PM

    I feel we all go through painful moments in our life. Life is not without tribulations, pain and suffering. We all have them sometime in our lives. You are right we must share our blessings.