I just returned from a very heart-moving and heart-wrenching trip to Nepal (you can read about it here). I had read before going that Nepal was one of the poorest countries in the world yet still was a bit shocked by how poor it really is. The last slum we visited was perhaps the worst I have seen. The kids were covered in dirt and some only had a shirt on. Walking through the tiny narrow paths the smells and sights were repulsive to the flesh. My dad even sadly said: “No one should have to live like this.” Leaving felt like we were escaping some sort of hell to be quite honest.
In another village where we were giving out winter coverings for kids, they walked 4-5 hours down a mountain (barefoot) with empty stomachs just for a hat, fleece jacket and pants. We found out from the district government official that some of them dig holes in the ground in the winter just to keep warmer. It was heart-wrenching.
Yet despite this level of poverty and need, what really struck me in each place and village we went to was the joy and generosity of the people. Even in the worst slums or poorest villages the kids had joy and adults were so genuinely grateful for our visit. In one village they cooked us a meal of steamed rice, fish, duck and vegetables. The reason this was so touching is because this is not a meal they have every day. They only have that kind of meal on very special occasions. Yet, they prepared it for us. It was a sacrifice greater than any we were making. And they did not do it begrudgingly, they did it on their own, willingly and with tremendous joy.
I’ve come to note that poverty does not mean joylessness or hopelessness. Some of the most grateful, thankful, joyful, peaceful people in the world are the poor. Yes, they experience physical hunger. Yes, they know suffering and sorrow. But they have a lot to teach those of us who live in outward abundance and prosperity.
In fact I have also come to realize that those of us who live in prosperity and outward comfort can be some of the most ungrateful, joyless, purposeless, hopeless, spoiled and complaining people in the world. I know because I am often convicted of this and see this in my life and attitude. It seems the more we have outwardly the more entitled we begin to feel we are or the more we “expect.” And the more we have outwardly, the more empty we can become and less we can truly posses inwardly. Often we don’t really realize how much so until we are around those who while lacking everything materially, posses so much spiritually. I have asked kids who you would think would have no hope for the future what they want to be when they grow up and they are filled with dreams of becoming teachers, doctors, pilots, engineer’s, policemen, pastors, missionaries. Yet in America, some of the richest kids lack all meaning, purpose and hope for their future. In fact I would suggest it is an epidemic, a poverty of a different kind. A poverty of the soul. It is what Jesus said to the church of Laodicea: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Revelation 3:17). I have come to see with my own eyes that some of the poorest people in the world are the most spiritually rich and some of the world’s richest are the world’s most spiritually empty and poor.
I believe part of the problem is the false sense of security and therefore “control” that wealth can deceive us with. The people in Laodicea that Jesus rebuked, became arrogant and blinded to their spiritual need because of their relative wealth and comfort. Today I believe we think we can “manage” our own lives and don’t really need to surrender our lives completely and fully to Jesus’ control. But as Jesus said in Luke 9:24-25: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?”
There was a woman on our trip to Nepal who shared her testimony with us. Her story was that over 20 years ago she tried to kill herself. She had reached a point where despite all her efforts to control her life and the lives of those around her, she couldn’t. Nothing was working out for her. The job she wanted she couldn’t get despite her many attempts. So, she lost hope and tried to take her life. Thankfully her attempt didn’t work and while in the hospital a friend of hers boldly told her she needed Jesus and needed to surrender her life to Him. She did. And she meant it. She was radically saved and filled with new life, joy and peace. A month later the company she had so badly wanted to work for called her and asked if she was still interested in the job! She is still there to this day. With tears flowing she told us that God has just blessed her with one blessing after another since she gave her life to Him.
I have a similar story. I reached a point to of being utterly depressed, angry, bitter and without hope. Nothing I did was working out. But after I surrendered my life and future into the Lord’s hands He filled me with a peace and joy, a delight in Him. He also began to lead and direct and guide my life, giving me hope, purpose and meaning. Whereas before my life was falling apart, it began to fall into place.
The issue I believe is control. The key word is surrender. This does not mean life will be easy or pain-free. The poor know the pains of hunger. The true Christian will know trials of many kinds, sorrow and suffering. But they will also have a peace, joy and hope that is stronger than anything circumstantially. In America we have nowhere near the level of outward poverty and need that much of the world has. But we do seem to have a spiritual poverty that in some ways more be even worse. And so what is most needed in America is a call to true surrender to Jesus Christ. I plead with anyone reading this to truly give your life to Him. Give up trying to control your life. Come to him empty and poor in spirit. Acknowledge your need of Him…not just when you’re having a bad day, but every day. I am talking life-style not lip-service. Become a true disciple of Jesus. Let Him lead and guide your life. Commit to serving Him where He is the center of your life around which everything else revolves. Surrender your will into His Sovereign hands. Let Him be Lord of your life and the rock (the strength) of your life. Seek him with ALL your heart…as if your life depends on it. Because it does.
Jeremiah 29:13: “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Revelation 3:18 “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”