Hymn text by Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1856-1922. View the full text of this hymn.

Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

“Count your blessings” is a bit of advice we often hear when we’re struggling with gratitude. Whether we feel entitled or abandoned, we sometimes end up with a warped understanding of the Lord’s role in our lives. When we feel entitled, we no longer feel that we need the Lord in our lives, believing that we have everything taken care of ourselves, thank you very much. And when we feel abandoned, we feel just the opposite–that the Lord no longer feels He has a need for us, leaving us to our own devices.

We are asked to consider the blessings the Lord has given us at these times, and are explicitly counseled to name them “one by one.” It’s not enough to think that the Lord has blessed us richly. We are instructed to consider specifically just how richly He has blessed us. We may consider the blessing of a loving family, a good job (or even any job at all), kind friends, modern conveniences, or simpler things like a pink and orange sunset, the sound of wind in trees, or a kind stranger sharing her cookie with you. (That was my blessing today.) When we deeply and individually consider the magnitude of the Lord’s blessings in our lives, we get a clearer sense of just how reliant we are on Him for our day to day existence. We are reminded that we cannot make it through life on our own, no matter how we try. Even the things that we tell ourselves are blessings we have bestowed upon ourselves, like our talents, our determination, and relationships we’ve built are in actuality gifts from the Lord. He endowed us with those gifts before we came to earth, and He placed us in situations in which we would be uniquely able to succeed. We owe all that we have and all that we are to our Savior.

When we do this, we will be surprised at what the Lord has done. It’s eye-opening to consider the breadth and depth of the blessings we receive daily. It’s staggering to realize just how pivotal a role the Savior plays in our lives. But what I think is truly surprising about counting our blessings is the total reversal in our outlook by doing so. Consider the second verse:

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings; ev’ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.

Solely by counting our blessings, we go from groaning under a heavy cross to singing–singing!–as the days go by. We learn humility and gratitude by counting our blessings, and those feelings are reflected in our lives in our joy. We can turn our suffering on its head by reflecting on our many, many blessings and wind up truly, genuinely happy. The blessings themselves and their scope are surprising, certainly, but perhaps more so is the transformation that comes as we consider them.

So when we count our blessings and name them one by one, our eyes will be opened. We will “see what God hath done,” not only in the ways He has already blessed our lives, but in the way He continues to bless us by altering and improving our attitudes. And as we do so, we will find ourselves surprised, and even singing, as the days go by.

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