In 1897, Johnson Oatman Jr. wrote the words to a simple yet profound hymn. It was written for young people to help them learn what is really worth counting and also to remember who can be counted on. In particular, Johnson wanted people to learn that they should count their blessings when times were hard. His song begins with these words:
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 hath done.
My daughter Hope sits down to play a hymn on the piano. She keeps the rhythm of the song, she keeps harmony, by doing nothing less than counting – that is what she does. She counts. The music teacher of a friend once said this to his students about how to keep the right beat of a song: “When you are a musician and you stop counting, it’s like running around in the forest, on the edge of a cliff, in the dark, without a flashlight.”
Without counting, the song loses harmony.
And without counting blessings, our lives lose the song, the light – the beat of God’s heart. There is transformative power in counting our blessings and naming the good gifts of God – because we encounter the power of God Himself in our lives. If you want to discover the rhythms of grace, joy, and true faithfulness, count the gifts God has given and the ones He is giving you even at this moment.
Write them down, express them in words, notice them, and celebrate each one. Start with ten, then take off your shoes and count ten more gifts. Now you have twenty. Keep going: a hundred gifts, two hundred, and you will discover there are even more. When you get to a thousand gifts, you will be getting warmed up.
How long will it take to list all the gifts God has given you? Let’s start together and continue counting for the rest of our lives…and forever. Who wants to miss the beat of His heart?
See Ann Voskamp in person at Women of Faith Believe God Can Do Anything in Anaheim, CA or Portland, OR. If you can’t make it to the event, do the next best thing: read Ann’s book One Thousand Gifts and go deeper with the One Thousand Gifts Study Guide with DVD.