Read His Words Before Ours!
We gathered around in a circle, as we did every morning, with the arms of our plastic chairs just barely touching. The blue, African sky seemed endless above us, and the hills that turned to mountains stretched just a few miles away. I shaded my eyes and squinted as I turned towards the man whose voice had risen above the rest.
“We will begin our time today by singing,” said Pastor Jehoshaphat, and we began singing, as we had done every morning for the past 10 days. The sound of eight American girls mixed with the voices of three African men and an African woman as we clapped our hands and sang…
“This is the day, this is the day
That the Lord has made, that the Lord has made
We will rejoice, we will rejoice
And be glad in it, and be glad in it
This is the day that the Lord has made
We will rejoice and be glad in it!
This is the day, this is the day
That the Lo-o-ord ha-a-as ma-a-de!”
Most people would assume the song was complete, but not with Pastor Jehosaphat. We continued with several more verses, replacing “day” with “hour”, “minute”, “church”, “land”, and whatever else Pastor could think of. We started our mornings full of thanksgiving and joy. The singing would often end in rolls of laughter from the seven other American girls on my team and a look of confusion from the four Kenyan people in our presence.
Later that day we walked a few miles to have a church meeting in a little hut. We walked into a dark house as half of us gathered in the living area and the other half gathered in the bedroom to sit on the bed. This little clay home was lined with our team and a few members of the church as we sang songs and spent time praying.
Chai tea and some food were passed around, the African sign of hospitality, and so, we ate and drank.
As I sat on the bed, I looked at the worn blankets and thought of the many people that shared this home and this bed, and yet they had just opened everything to us and spent hours preparing food. The Lord’s presence overwhelmed me as I felt Him saying,
“See how thankful they are? See how joyful they are? They give without hesitation. They pray without ceasing. That is Me in them.”
It wasn’t just that day, but it was almost every single day following, that I saw people give thanks to the Lord with joy in their words while graciously giving their time and resources to eight privileged American girls.
This list could go on and on.
But let me tell you something I learned from these amazing people.
Thankfulness is not based on your circumstances.
Thankfulness is not something that comes when we have everything we need.
Thankfulness is not dependent on a situation.
Thankfulness is not what we use to get what we want.
Thankfulness does not come with pride or greed.
With the outpouring of thankfulness comes the capacity to serve others.
Our team was served despite the fact that we came to serve them. We were served even though we had more financial resources than them. Generously, the people we met on our journey served us
because they were so incredibly thankful for all the Lord was doing in their own lives.
My husband and I have found ourselves looking into a nearly empty fridge and a nearly empty bank account on many occasions. We have looked at bills piled on the counter with a sense of dread, knowing most of our paychecks would be going right back into those envelopes.
But I will tell you something, the Lord has used my African friends to teach me that my thankfulness does not stop when my money runs out.
My thankfulness does not die as my circumstances grow dim.
There is always, always, something to be thankful for.
In Psalm 118, we read verse after verse where the psalmist declares his praise to the Lord and his words overflow with thankfulness, but we also read of the circumstances he found himself in. Distress, persecution from people who hate you, and seemingly certain death, aren’t phrases that naturally lend themselves to praise, yet the entire song is filled with adoration for who God is and all He has done.
The Psalmist reminds us that he has endured many hard times, he has been to the point of almost breaking, he has endured suffering because of his mistakes, and he has found himself in many moments of hopelessness.
But the Lord is still good.
The Lord was still his strength and his song.
Not his circumstances.
And we read his last request, “Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success!”, we don’t know if that prayer was answered. We don’t know if he was given “success”, but that doesn’t stop the Psalmist from praising the Lord.
He doesn’t praise Him because he is hoping it will persuade God to give him success.
He praises the Lord because He is God.
Because He is good and His love endures forever.
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