I remember walking into her house. I specifically remember how empty it was.
Similar to the numerous other brightly painted concrete houses we’d been in and out of, there wasn’t much furniture to begin with, but she–
She had barely anything. Cold walls and floors in sharp contrast to the relentless Dominican heat. I don’t know where her family was, if she had a family, but she was probably only a little older than me, I think.
We asked about her name, her age, her life; frankly, I don’t remember her answers because I can only remember her response to our question: how can we pray for you?
Her response changed my life. And I believe, friend, that it will change yours too, if you let it.She looked at us in disbelief, wondering why we would ask her such a thing. She shook her head, saying,
“Pray for yourselves. Pray that you would stay healthy, and that you would go back to your country safely.”
To this day, I am astounded at her response. I think she is much further on her walk of understanding the world, the Gospel, and the faith.
I have tried to understand her motives for months, rolling over this encounter in my mind countless times. How could she care about us this much?
But I think I might have figured it out, or part of it:
She is so grateful for what she has, that she doesn’t have time to compare what she has to what she doesn’t have. So grateful, in fact, that she is grateful for what we have. We have so much that she doesn’t have, and she is thankful for that.
I’m talking to you, friend of the first-world.
Not only do we have all of our basic needs fulfilled, but many of our wants.
She doesn’t even have her needs fulfilled, yet she was thanking the Lord for us and all that we do have.
She wasn’t comparing, as we do.
She was thanking.
In her heart she was too busy praising God that we didn’t have to live in poverty like her, to even think about her own needs.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3
I am still stunned every time I think of her.
Her gratitude ran so deep that she was thankful for what we had, even though she didn’t have the same things.
And I believe that she has figured out the key to humility:
Praise God for what you do have, and praise Him that others get to enjoy the things you don’t.
I am reminded now of a time in my life when I struggled with bitterness, and I remember the Lord revealing to me that I was ungrateful. I felt as if I couldn’t feel His presence or His guidance. I read The Message version of Psalm 100:4:
Enter with the password: “Thank you!” Make yourselves at home, talking praise. Thank him. Worship him.
The key to entering His presence is thankfulness.
The key to worship: thankfulness.
The key to humility: thankfulness.
Why else would Paul tell us to “give thanks in all circumstances?” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, ESV) He knew that to seek the presence of God in every situation we would have to be thankful.
How else would we “count others as more significant than [our]selves?” (Philippians 2:3) He knew that we would have to be thankful for the things that other people have, that we don’t.
This is the exact opposite of self-seeking; this is others-seeking because you are seeking the very best for them. You are celebrating them and everything they have been given.
This is not blaming God for the things you lack, but praising Him because everything is a gift we do not deserve to begin with.
So, fellow Christ-follower, give thanks today for all that you have been given. And then give thanks for others, like my Dominican friend, and all the things that others have that you don’t. Don’t compare, but celebrate. Celebrate them and that they have belongings and opportunities you don’t. You will be able to truly lift them up, encouraging them to use what they have to glorify the Lord.
This is humility. This is gratitude. This is an act of worship.