By now, many of you are following the stories about our friends’ lives. This one, in particular, is currently rocking my worldview, especially in regard to blessings and poverty.
The last night before our friend left town, he sat on our couch and calmly disclosed much of his life’s history with us. Growing up as the poorest of the poor, his family had to take great lengths for him to receive an education (miles of walking, boat and bus riding just to get to school each day). Over time, God brought them greater and greater opportunities, and eventually, he made himself into a business man. He casually transitioned to present day, sharing that financially, his business was just breaking even. He’d had to move out of his apartment for lack of funds and had been living out of his car/business for the last month and a half. Occasionally, he slept in his car in parking lots of big stores; food had been scarce.
There are two things about his story that I just can’t wrap my mind around:
1. On the surface, we had literally NO idea anything was wrong. There was not the slightest shift of countenance that would signal something was “off” or that he needed our help in that entire two months. (In fact, the opposite was true! People were coming into his life almost daily that he was sharing Christ with, and he received an abundance of joy in the process).
2. This is the first time I’ve met someone in this situation that said things like: “During these six weeks I have depended on God and He is providing everything I need. I made my place of business like my sanctuary and it has been a very special time with God.” When we offered to let him stay the night at our house: “Actually, my business has become such a special place with God that I’d really like to spend my last night with Him there. I want to be with Him one last time in these circumstances, in that place.”
We thought back over several times in the past two months when this friend covered the charge for our coffee, wouldn’t let us buy his meal when we took him out, etc. If it were me, I’d be looking for every opportunity for someone to provide for me financially, let me sleep in a bed, let me use their shower – you name it. But what was his response? “God is giving me everything I need. I’d actually like to be with Him one more night.”
For the past couple of years, I have tried to stop equating “blessing” with material things (hashtag, “ImSoBlessed”). Yes, God absolutely gives us tangible gifts; it’s very important to give thanks! But what about our friend? Am I blessed because I have a house, and he’s NOT blessed because he doesn’t?
What about “..the Son of Man had nowhere to lay his head..”? Is Jesus more acquainted with having nothing than I am? I would have to say, “Yes.”
Why did it take me so long to be struck by the fact that I have not been “in need” (food/clothing/shelter) a single day in. my. LIFE?
Grace upon grace upon grace.
The morning our friend left town, we shared some scripture together, including part of Phil. 4:
“I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Are you ready for our friend’s response? It’s going to wreck you.
“Oh, that Paul.. Amazing that he knew how to be content in all circumstances. There are so few people who know what it is to be content in prosperity because they have so much.”
Sing with me….
Come, young and old from every land
Men and women of the faith;
Come, those with full or empty hands
Find the riches of His grace.
Over all the world, His people sing
Shore to shore we hear them call
The Truth that cries through every age: “Our God is all in all”