In my last post about Haiti, I shared my honest struggles with selfishness, and the realization that this one life must be lived with selfless abandon for the One who has given everything for us: Jesus. Today I’d like to back up a bit and walk you through my experiences after I arrived in Haiti.
I left in the afternoon on Thursday and traveled to LA, then on to Miami, and then Port au Prince. We arrived Friday morning and faced a 3-hour drive through winding roads into the mountains to the city of Hinche. My herniated disc and sciatic nerve pain was a very real concern when I committed to serve in Haiti.
While traveling I was in excruciating pain, and I wondered how I would be able to handle the rest of trip. The drive through the mountains did little to improve my condition, but I tried to focus on the beauty of the landscape and think about the week before me. I knew God had brought me here to serve, and that He would make a way for me to do that despite my discomfort.
After arriving in Hinche, our team worked hard to unpack and prepare for hosting a camp for 350+ young people from the surrounding villages. This was the first annual “Youth Conference” to minister to the kids, many of whom had been in the schools and churches set up by the Haiti Endowment Fund. While unpacking I noticed something amazing: My back pain was completely gone. I can only explain it as a space of grace. God’s grace gave me the power to do His will as I was obedient to Him.
The following morning I found two distinct scriptures:
Don’t I have a right to complain? (Job 6:5 NLT)
Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. (Philippians 2:14-15 NLT)
What a contrast! Looking at Job’s circumstances (losing his family, his business, and his health), it certainly seems that he has a right to complain. Yet Paul encourages us (even after facing imprisonment, beatings, shipwrecks, going hungry, thirsty, being in danger and near death) to do everything without complaining so that we will shine like bright lights in a dark world. I knew that reading these two verses on the same day was no accident.
I began to notice that even though it was extremely hot and humid and I never stopped sweating, I didn’t feel the urge to complain. Even though it was impossible to look cute—I mean seriously my curly hair looked like a wet rag—it didn’t seem to matter. I can’t believe that I didn’t even flip out at the thought that there were two giant hairy tarantulas in our room the trip prior to ours!
At home I have the option to walk into an air conditioned house. At home I have the option of a hair dryer and a curling iron. At home I can spray for bugs in my well-insulated house.
When our options are limited we are far more likely to express gratitude. During this week I felt the weight of life’s pressures slip away as I focused on the beauty of the Haitian people, the relief of a cold shower on a hot night, and the presence of God in the midst of poverty and need.
In life we often run toward our comforts to find relief from our pain, anxiety, or distress. We rarely run toward gratitude, a simple yet life-altering attribute that will change our perspective like nothing else can. God knew we would struggle with this when He encouraged us not to complain but to:
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV)
How can you begin to live a life of gratitude today? I’d love to hear from you!