Recently, I’ve been reading a book called “He Walks Among Us – Encounters With Christ In A Broken World” by Richard and his wife Renee Stearns, who is the president of World Vision – a Christian humanitarian organization. In it, the couple shares stories of children and families they have encountered in their work, applying the stories to help teach principles the reader can use in their own life. It is tragic, and at the same time inspiring, to hear of the way less fortunate people live. Tragic because of the pain and suffering of people starving to death -children left to raise their siblings because their parents have died from sickness, and oppression from their rulers. But the humility and faith that many of these people have is astounding and inspiring.
When I’m caught up in my day to day affairs, I forget all the blessings I have – things like running water, food to eat, a car to drive, freedom, a warm place to stay. These are all things that the majority of us in the west take for granted, but that a large percentage of people in rest of the world doesn’t have. In the book, Richard Stern claims that “two billion people in the world live in desperate poverty, and nearly twenty thousand children under the age of five needlessly die everyday.” It’s sickening to think that I complain over material desires – why I can’t have this, why I can’t have a bigger house, car, TV, etc., why other people have it so much easier than I do – when there’s small children across the world right now hoping to just get a drink of water and something to eat so they don’t die.
How many times do I receive something and am actually grateful for it, instead of thinking that I deserve it? The gratitude and humility that the less fortunate have is something that we could all use. I do my best to always show appreciation and say “thank you”, but am I truly grateful? I may be showing outward gratitude, but am I humble at heart? If they decided to not give me what I wanted/needed, would my “gratitude” turn into demands and thinking I deserve it? The sick and suffering receive gifts with tears of joy and gratitude. When is the last time I’ve received a gift that way?
The smiles and unmovable faith in the face of so much suffering is something that is almost hard for us in the west to grasp. Here these people are struggling to survive day to day, and they are filled with an unshakable faith. They are finding ways to still find joy where most couldn’t find it. We have a tendency to doubt God if we don’t get the job we think we need, the partner that we know will complete us, or when things just simply don’t go the way we think they should. By observing our own lives, we believe we truly are worse off than anyone else and fall into self-pity. But when we change our perspective and see the real issues that the human race is facing, we are ashamed at the petty things we’re complaining about and our lack of gratitude for living with more blessings than the majority of the world.
The strangest thing is observing the character of these people and thinking they have something that’s missing in my life. The people that have less than anyone else in the world somehow have something that we envy, something that doesn’t quite make rational sense. Our brains can’t understand how people living in such poverty and sickness could be content. But that’s because we allow our own understanding to transcend the understanding of God. Jesus lives among the sick and suffering, the poor and the lame. Homeless himself, he had and left this world with nothing. He spent only three years in ministry, yet is the most powerful person to ever walk the planet. I don’t care if you’re a Christian or not, that’s got to raise some eyebrows and make yourself question “just who is this man”. A man that was homeless, penniless and only taught for three years became the face of the largest religion the world has ever known. That’s not rational either. And it’s not supposed to be. When we are humble and open our hearts to his love, miracles happen.