“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Lately, I’ve been praying that God give me a more thankful heart, and every time I become frustrated or angry with the situation I am in, I begin listing things I can be thankful for. I once heard a quote, “What would your life be like tomorrow if God took away everything that you didn’t thank Him for today?”
Living in an orphanage in a third world country, my perspective is much different than it was when I lived in the United States. I realize so many things that I take for granted, and daily I realize more and more how incredibly God has truly blessed me throughout my life.
I am thankful for the opportunity to study in a University and the many excellent teachers that taught me throughout my education, my status as an American citizen that allows me to travel internationally with ease, and the safe neighborhood I grew up in as a child, where I was never fearful of the dangers of drug trafficking, gang violence, kidnapping, or rape. I am thankful every time I eat macaroni and cheese or instant pudding, because it’s different than rice and beans. I am thankful for the times I have electricity and running water, for the times my internet is working, and for the ease at which I can communicate with loved ones from home. I am thankful for the numerous Christian churches in the Whatcom County area; not only did I grow up near one church, but I had many to choose from of which I desired to attend. I am thankful for the uncorrupt police force, firefighters, military, and medical personnel which kept my community safe as I grew up. I am thankful for my Bible, and the various English translations I have to choose from. I am thankful for bug spray and Piperzina, the medicine I take every time I get parasites.
But if I am honest, even as I am surrounded by a country so poor and corrupt, and surrounded by children who have lacked basic needs and been severely abused throughout their childhood, I still find that I can be selfish at times. So often, I feel that I am lacking what I deserve or have earned. When someone speaks to me rudely, when I am given a task to complete that I really don’t want to do, when a friend betrays my trust, or when one of my girls talks back to me. I get mad, and I believe this is because I don’t have the right perspective.
So often, we as Americans think that going to a third-world country will change us. We think that seeing how terrible of conditions other people live in will make us forever live differently. So we go on a mission trip to see the poorest of the poor, to see the people who don’t have ‘what they deserve.’ And yes, it does change us. But sadly, the effect is usually not long lasting. Maybe a couple months, maybe a year. And we gradually get adjusted back to our American lifestyle and start getting greedy again. I have experienced this myself – in my visit to the States this past January I depressingly saw how quick I was to jump back into my first-world materialism. I definitely promote mission trips and travel, because I believe that it opens ones eyes to what life is like outside of the American ‘bubble’ we have grown up in and gives new perspective.
But I think that for a lasting change, we must seek an even deeper change of perspective. To be truly grateful for our blessings, we must not compare ourselves to the people living with only one meal a day or to the young woman who was severely beaten as a child. No, we must compare ourselves to what we actually deserve without Jesus – Hell. To truly live different lives, we don’t need to go to an orphanage or a homeless shelter. We need to understand the gospel more deeply. Because the more we understand that we don’t deserve anything at all, the more we are truly grateful for every single blessing we have been given by God’s grace. We begin to realize that the biggest blessing of all is our salvation, and even if that is the only good thing we ever have, that is enough.
I wonder sometimes, God would I still be thankful if you took away my family, my food, my house, my health, my education? And then I look at my little girls – 4-8 year old girls who have been taken away from their families, from their homes, have lacked nutritious food, good health, and a decent education most of their life.
God, I pray that I can value the gospel and my salvation as much as I should. I pray that I can hold your grace and mercy as more precious than anything else in my life. And I pray that I let the gospel be enough for me. I pray that I can teach my little girls to have thankful hearts, to not let the world teach them to have self-pity for the situation they have been brought into, but instead that they may be filled with joy by the knowledge that the Almighty King has made them His children.
“For from his fullness we have all received, grace up on grace.” John 1:16
I love Jesus and what He has to teach me while I wander around the planet. My other favorite things include: foreign languages, yoga, hiking,
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