By Norris Burkes, Sep 20,2020

Have you heard the song “Blessings” by Laura Story that she concludes with, “What if trials of this life … are your mercies in disguise?” 

I confess, I feel a little nauseated when someone suggests that my trials are somehow a “blessing in disguise.”

The sentiment comes off sounding like Hallmark Card theology. It makes me want to ask if anyone is paying attention. 

I’d like to ask, “Have you noticed the fires in the west and the hurricanes in the south?
How about the unemployment levels higher than the Great Depression and the near 200K COVID deaths?” 

Many Americans are experiencing a proverbial butt-kicking from this virus. So I think it’s fair to ask God, “Where’s the mercy? Where’s the blessing?”

While I can’t answer these questions for the world, I should probably turn inward and do my best to answer them for myself.  

For me personally, this crisis has made me more available and present to count the “blessings” life has brought in 2020.

At the beginning of this quarantine, Becky and I took temporary care of a grandchild. This meant we housed, fed, and remote-schooled a 7-year-old grandson we knew only from occasional visits. 

While Becky taught him reading, math and writing, I served as the IT guy who also taught science and PE. In between, the blessing blossomed as I took my new little buddy fishing, bike riding and lizard hunting.  


For five months, I woke him with breakfast, fixed his lunch and Becky followed with dinner. As the sun set, I scooped ice cream and ran bubbled bath water. Tag, Becky was “it” to read the bedtime books.

And yes, like you, I found my grandson to be perfect. Huge blessing.

Chasing a grandchild required a new level of fitness. Gratefully, the quarantine motivated me to improve my pulmonary health. I’ve been able to run miles of smiles around the beautiful lake where we live and been spared the COVID 19 lbs. of weight gain.

Finally, the quarantine has provided me with the blessing of spending more time with my best friend of 45 years, Roger.

I’ve often mentioned “Rog” in this column and last month I wrote of his heroic efforts in serving as a frontline hospital chaplain in this crisis.

That was the same week his headaches began. 

Last week, I broke the quarantine rules to hold a hand on his shoulder as his oncologist recommended hospice.  

He’s dying very quickly and with a horrendous amount of pain from a cancer that’s returned for the fourth time in 24 years.

So despite all my “blessings,” I’m having a very hard time with the last one. I’m not yet seeing “his mercies.” 

Story’s song leaves me haunted with a conundrum posed by lyrics asking if trials are “mercies in disguise.”

After her young husband developed an inoperable brain tumor in 2006, she wrote the hit song “Blessings” in 2011.

“We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel you near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love”

As we approach the tail end of 2020, I’m searching for the same wisdom Story sought in her refrain: 

What if your blessings come through raindrops
What if your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you’re near
What if trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?

Like I said, all of us must seek our own answers. I pray we continue to find them.


Visit or Contact me at 10566 Combie Rd. Suite 6643 Auburn, CA 95602 or via voicemail (843) 608-9715. Twitter @chaplain.