EP34: I Got Forty-Four Blessings

If you’re having life problems I feel bad for you son. I got forty-four blessings and this is a story ’bout one.

I got the rap patrol on the gat patrol

Foes that want to make sure my casket’s closed

My critics often say his “Life’s full of woes”

I’ve been blessed, stupid, what type of facts are those?

I’ve Been Blessed

I remember being in a dark place. Trapped in a scary, foreboding situation in which I felt cursed, snakebit and born to lose.

Similar to what it sounds like David – the same David who defeated Goliath in the Old Testament, and who went on to become King of Israel – was experiencing when he wrote this, at Psalm 69:2:

“I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me.”

In fact, I’ve been in situations like that many times in my life. And – in literally every one of those situations – God reached down, lifted me up, and brought me out of whatever was causing me such distress.

Exactly like what David must have experienced before he wrote this, at Psalm 40:2:

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

God was faithful. God delivered me out of all those dark places.

I’ve been blessed.

This is a common, recurring theme I have experienced many times over the course of my life: I find myself in the midst of crisis, I turn to God, and He delivers me from that crisis.

I’ve been blessed.

I’ve been blessed so many times.

If you’re having life problems I feel bad for you son

I got forty-four blessings and I’m about to tell you ’bout one…

One Example

As one example of what I’m talking about, starting around 2007-2008, and continuing for the next four years or so, I lived through through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

If that wasn’t challenging enough, I owned a real estate company (which I still own) at the time. If you lived through that crisis, you’ll recall it absolutely crushed real estate.

I watched many of my competitors go out of business.

To stay solvent, I maxed out every credit card I had. And then I got a few more credit cards, and maxed those out. At one point, I was paying more than $1,000 per month in credit card interest.

I was also doling out five-figures-plus every month to pay for my infrastructure (office, payroll, utilities, etc.), when almost no money was coming in the door. I was going backwards financially to the tune of $15-$20K per month.

A Symbolic Act of Faith

At that time, I did what I always do in such circumstances: I stood strong on the unwavering, infallible Word of God. I remembered all the times God saved me, rescued me and blessed me in the past. And I doubled down on those things.

As a symbolic act of my faith, sometime in the middle of 2008, I sent an email to the pastor of my church, Brad Powell, of NorthRidge Church, based in Plymouth, MI. In that email, I proclaimed my faith, and reaffirmed my confidence that God would somehow make a way for me out of that nightmare situation.

Honestly – through my eyes, and from my limited human perspective – I saw no way out. I thought I was trapped. I thought my life as I knew it was about to end.

But I did what I could do, and which had worked so many times in the past: I prayed, I trusted and I believed.

I lived by faith, and not by sight.

Time passed. The crisis worsened. My financial situation grew darker and darker.

I heard nothing from Brad.

On the Edge of Bankruptcy

More than two more years passed.

I continued to watch my savings and my nest egg evaporate before my very eyes. I was living month-to-month and hand-to-mouth.

At one point, I recall having less than a dollar in my business bank account at the end of a month. And not much more in any other account I had at the time.

I was almost certain I would have to declare bankruptcy. I actually did the research on bankruptcy filings. I learned the difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings.

I feared that – if I actually ended up having to file for bankruptcy – I might not be able to survive that blow to my ego and my reputation. How could I face my friends and family?

Lightning Strikes

And at the very bottom of that black hole – like a lightning bolt out of the blue, and in the blink of an eye – everything changed.

Right when I was at the end of my financial rope, I received a call from a past client who had moved to another state about five years earlier, and then decided to move back to Michigan. Very shortly thereafter, that client bought a $2.4 million home. The commission on that sale was 4%.

Ever had God drop nearly $100K into your lap?

I have.

I’ve been blessed.

Lightning Strikes… Again

Not long thereafter, that client’s son called me.

He had also moved out west. He also wanted to move back home. He quickly purchased a home on the same street that his parents now lived on. That was another million-dollar-plus purchase with a large commission.

The commissions I earned on those two sales – which to this day are the two largest commissions I have ever earned, which I earned on back-to-back sales just a few months apart – were just enough to allow me to pay off those emergency debts, to have some cushion left in the bank, and to begin rebuilding my financial life.

God was faithful.

He delivered me out of that financial nightmare. He saved me from that calamity that could have wrecked my life.

I’ve been blessed.

A Form Letter Received

Getting back to that email to Brad Powell, which I had sent sometime in mid-2008.

In late November of 2008, I received a letter from NorthRidge Church. From the appearance of the envelope, it seemed to be a standard form letter of some variety.

As I have a bad habit of not opening any mail that doesn’t look urgent, I didn’t open that letter when I received it. And, somehow, that letter ended up in a manila folder full of other pieces of unopened mail that didn’t appear important, marked “Read Later.”

“Read Later”

Fast forward to the end of 2011, now more than three years later, not long after the second of the two lightning strikes I mentioned a moment ago. One Sunday afternoon, I was cleaning out a file cabinet, and I stumbled across that manila folder labeled “Read Later.”

I browsed through it, and discovered that still-sealed letter from NorthRidge Church. The one with the 2008 postmark. I opened it, and began reading.

Brad’s Letter to the Church

The letter, dated November 21, 2008, was from Brad to the church. He was encouraging people to stay strong and to continue to have faith in the midst of the financial crash. The opening paragraph included this:

“The present economic downturn has hit our area and many in our church like a tsunami. While we’ve always been a church that seeks to help those in need, the number of calls we are currently receiving is three hundred percent higher than last year.”

The second paragraph was a quote.

The quote was from me, from the email I sent Brad back in 2008.

I was stunned.

All that time, I thought Brad had ignored my outreach.

An Erroneous Conclusion

Instead, he had done exactly the opposite: he had taken my words, and shared them with the entire church. Here is that quote (you can see the actual letter here):

“Dear Brad… As I shared with you a few years ago, my business has been in decline for a while due to our horrific local economy. I felt like sharing this excerpt from my prayer journal that I wrote a moment ago… “Dear Jesus, I come to You this morning with more uncertainties and anxieties than ever and yet I am able to experience peace and a sense of calm that truly does transcend all understanding. At the moment, it appears that my business will likely be forced to shutdown… And here is the amazing part: over time, as I have matured as a Christian and continue to absorb Your Word and the wonderful spiritual instruction that I have received at NorthRidge Church, my hope has move from earthly, secular success to, well, You. My hope truly is in You, not in anything in or of this world. I should be terrified right now, because I have no backup plan, and my resources could literally expire before I’m even able to shut my business down. And yet, somehow, I remain composed and confident, and I really do have faith that somehow, some way, You will make a way for me out of this…”

The Icing on the Cake

I remember slumping back in my chair as I realized that my expression of faith had been shared with over 25,000 local people. That felt good. That felt really good.

More importantly, I was reminded of the incredible goodness of God. He had taken me right to the razor’s edge of disaster…and then He saved me.

Somehow, discovering that letter at that specific point in time – which, remember, had been in my physical possession for over three years – felt like the icing on the cake. It was as if God wanted to make sure I didn’t miss the point.

Right after He had rescued me, I believe He led me to that letter.

I had completely forgotten about it. And then I rediscovered it, opened it and read it.

And it too my breath away.

I’ve been blessed.

What it Felt Like

It felt as if God was saying, “Here’s what you missed. Here’s what I did with your email to Brad. And how does it feel to read that letter now, just after you narrowly averted financial disaster? Do you think you’re discovering that letter now randomly? I wanted to make a point. I trust you’re getting that point.”

“Yes, God. I am getting the point. If I wasn’t sure you were involved before discovering that letter from Brad to the church, I am sure now.”

It was as if God was closing the loop on that entire experience, which began with my expression of faith in the email I sent Brad in 2008, and which ended with me discovering his letter to me, in the aftermath of my faith being rewarded, in 2011.

I’ve been blessed.

OK, And???

You may be thinking, “Nice story, Mike. Of course, that could be all luck, fate, random chance, etc. There is no way you can prove that God had anything to do with any of that, right?”

Good question.

And if that were the only experience I’ve had in which I felt God had rescued me, I’d be the first to admit that I could be wrong about all of this.

I could be attributing to God what was actually luck, or random chance, or a fortunate roll of the dice.

But here’s the thing: That wasn’t the only time where I believe God interceded on my behalf.

I Got 44 Blessings 

In fact, over the years I have documented at least 44 unique instances in which something happened in my life that were comparable to what I just described.

Instances in which certain things I experienced – in which the course of my life was altered in some significant way – caused me to believe a higher power was involved.

There was some odd coincidence, or the timing lined up with some other thing in some way that was just too freaky to ignore. Or things happened in such a way that I was left with no alternative other than to believe those events were divinely orchestrated.

Some of these instances left me questioning my understanding of reality, because something happened that was so big, and so inexplicable, that I knew – I just knew – they didn’t happen by chance.

A Few Other Illustrations

Like having a high school guidance counselor – who, to this day, I never met – go to bat for me when they heard my application to Michigan State University had been rejected. Without my knowledge, they contacted the admissions office at MSU, and said or did something that caused MSU to reverse their decision and let me in.

Or having a state police officer let me go without so much as a warning after I was pulled over going 90 in a 60, and after admitting I had been drinking.

Or surviving a high-speed motorcycle accident (I T-boned a large deer at 60 mph) – which totaled my beloved BMW S100R and which made my helmet look like what you see in the image below – well enough that I was back lifting weights and doing yoga less than four months later. While I did suffer multiple broken bones, they were clean breaks that healed very quickly, and I literally had not a single scratch on my body (if you know anything about motorcycles, one of the biggest fears bikers have is of losing flesh – or worse – when body meets pavement, at even moderate speeds). On a relative scale with respect to what could have or should have happened, I came out of that accident virtually unscathed.

A number of those things rise to the level, or near the level, of the story I just shared with you.

I’ve experienced such things at least 44 times in my life.

So, what then?

Roll of the Dice vs. Act of God

When you experience something extraordinary once or twice, it’s very easy to discount God’s potential involvement.

But what about when it happens nine times? Or 25? Or 44?

At a certain point, it becomes more logical and rational to believe in God than it is to believe in random chance.

I completely understand and respect that you may disagree with me.

You may think, “He’s just some Jesus freak who wants to believe in a higher power because he’s too weak psychologically or mentally to deal with the realities of life.”

Yes, I suppose that is possible. (Although, if you spent a day with me, I think “Jesus freak” would be about the last thing you would describe me as.)

But I know what I know, and I cannot deny the sheer, raw power of what I have seen with my own eyes and experienced tangibly in my own life.

I’ve been blessed.

I’ll just say this: If you had the same experiences that I’ve had, no matter how jaded, cynical and or secular you may be, I am confident you would reach the same conclusions I’ve reached.

If you’re having life problems I feel bad for you son

I got forty-four blessings and this is just one…

Benefits of Remembering the Blessings

Not only that, but, because I place such a priority on remembering God’s blessings as such a key part of my daily life:

I have incredible confidence with respect to the future. No matter what life may throw at me, because I have all these experiences that I can reflect back upon in which God rescued me from something, I know I’m going to come out on the other side and be just fine.

The level of anxiety I experience in the face of crisis is a fraction of what it should be. It’s hard to get too worked up when you have such a large set of experiences in which God has done something miraculous in your life.

I’m able to remain happy, upbeat and joyful even in the most terrifying of scenarios. Right now, as I write this, late in the spring of 2020, the world is in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but that crisis has had almost zero effect on me. It just doesn’t matter. I simply have so many memories of God rescuing me from so many different things that it’s difficult for me to be anything but happy, upbeat and joyful, no matter what’s going on in the world.

Importance of Remembering the Blessings

Remembering all of the good things God has done for you is one of the most important things you can do to stay sane in a world gone increasingly mad, and to keep proper perspective in your life.

I have said this at least five times in the past couple of weeks when speaking with people: If not for my faith in God, if not for my honest, sincere, 100% belief that He is real, I have no idea how I could maintain a positive outlook in the face of all the turmoil in the world right now.

But, because I do have that faith and belief, I can watch things play out on the global stage and rest easy, knowing that God is in control of everything that happens to me in this life.

But It Will Not Come Near You

A scripture I often think of that really resonates with me, and which feels so applicable to what’s happening right now, is Psalm 91:7: “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.”

There is so much power in that thought. So much protection. So much comfort.

That’s why I have no fear of COVID-19: because I believe in God’s Word that much, and to that extent. I truly believe that verse.

That scripture was also written by David, and I will conclude with a few more verses from him, all of which stress the importance and significance of remembering God’s blessing in your life:

Psalm 77:11: “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.”

Psalm 105:5: “Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced…”

Psalm 143:5: “I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.”

I’ve Been Blessed

I remember the incredible litany of things God has done for me. I think of these things every day.

I don’t care what others think about my beliefs. I don’t care if they think I’m crazy or delusional.

While I’d love for people to hear my story and be moved by it, that doesn’t matter, either. I’m not trying to impress anyone. (And even if I was, my stories have nothing to do with me; they are about God and his generosity, not me.)

I continue to marvel at the things God does in my life, because I not a very good person. I am a sinner and I’m not even remotely worthy of His generosity and His faithfulness. The good news (for me, and perhaps for you): God rewards us not for being “good,” but for believing in Him, and for having faith (“faith, not works,” as per Ephesians 2:8).

I’m just sharing a small part of the story of God’s blessings in my life, and even I don’t fully understand why I am doing it. I just feel an overwhelming compulsion to do so, and I’m simply honoring that compulsion, for better or worse.

I Know

I know what I know. I know what I’ve experienced.

I know what God has done for me. Time after time after time, without fail.

I’ve been blessed.

Each and every day, I thank God for His incredible generosity and mercy.

I’ve been blessed.

I will remember God’s blessings, each and every day…

If you’re having life problems I feel bad for you son

I got forty-four blessings and I just told you ’bout one…

PS – For purposes of this post, when I say I’ve experienced forty-four blessings, I am referring to major life events in which something inexplicable happened that benefited me in some significant way. In reality, I’ve been blessed thousands of times. But I’ve been blessed forty-four times in terms of major life occurrences that I cannot explain…