Guest Post by Andrew Adams
Do you remember the first time you heard this song? Maybe it was playing on a Christmas playlist. Or maybe you heard it in it’s original context, in the classic movie White Christmas.
No matter how you heard it, this classic song written by Irving Berlin has touched the hearts and lives of millions of people. But have you ever stopped to think about the lyrics?
Here they are in case you haven’t really looked at them before.
When I’m worried and I can’t sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds
If you’re worried and you can’t sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings
Why Can’t You Sleep?
Ok. Easy question. You’re worried! You’re anxiously asking yourself, “What am I going to do about such and such?” Or asking yourself, “Are we going to have enough money to pay for that?” Or telling yourself, “I need to remember to do this tomorrow.”
Too often that should-be blissful time of sleep and rest turns into a fitful nightmare of anxious thoughts. Before we know it, our mind is racing with more questions then answers.
So, in desperation, we turn to a childhood idea in order to catch that elusive sleep.
Beyond Math and Jumping Sheep
One by one, we watch these fluffy sheep jumping over our imaginary fence. The number of lazily jumping sheep slowly rises as our eyes begin to droop. Then one of those sheep turns into a picture of your anxiety, your eyes pop open, and your heart starts racing again.
You sigh, roll over, and force yourself into a restful position, hoping sleep will somehow find you soon.
An Ancient Spiritual Discipline
But maybe Bing Crosby was onto something when he sang that classic song in White Christmas.
In an attempt to console his soon to be girlfriend, he famously recommends that she try something different. What if, like Bing, you began counting your blessings instead of sheep?
Gratitude has been shown to increase altruism (a strong predictor of happiness), decrease depression, improve optimism and positive emotions, boost creativity, benefit relationships, impact longevity, and improve health and well-being.
Counting your blessings is a combination of 2 spiritual disciplines: worship and self-reflection. Worship is praising God’s greatness, goodness, and beauty in words, music, ritual, or silence. Self-reflection is paying attention to our inner self in order to grow in love for God, others, and self.
*Definitions adapted from Dallas Willard
Combining these 2 disciplines is a great way to enter in to what Paul talks about when he commands us to not be conformed to the world but to allow God to transform us.
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Our problems don’t magically disappear. They are still real. But, by focusing our attention on the source of our strength and blessings, we find the ability to deal with the problems that surround us.
So here’s your challenge. Don’t let the busyness and stress of the holidays get you down. Instead, choose to count your blessings. Intentionally focus on the positive stuff in your life. Thank God for all that He has given you. And watch as you begin to see God work in the midst of your problems.
Andrew Adams is a husband, father, Missionary Associate through the Assemblies of God, and blogger at heinspiredme.com. He is passionate about seeing people enter into life with God and helping them become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. He writes regularly on a wide array of Christian living topics.