Paul wrote “Do now worry about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:6-7
If you grew up in church like I did, you probably couldn’t even begin to count the number of times you’ve heard this verse in your life. You’ve heard it in Bible study, read it in books, and heard it in more sermons than you would have liked. We get it already! Let’s look at something new. How about Zephaniah? He sounds like a cool guy.
During my whole trip, God used scriptures and ideas that have been taught to me my whole life, and flipped them upside-down as He revealed them to me in a whole new light. Just like the other lessons God taught me while I was in Haiti, He used this passage that before I would have called over used and showed me something I won’t soon forget.
Go back and read the scripture again. Do you see that tiny, two-word phrase in the middle that could easily be overlooked? With thanksgiving.
The people in the remote mountain villages of Haiti may not study or understand the intricacies of these verses; after all, literacy is uncommon and Bibles are scarce. But in this land without privilege, people have learned a lesson that it should be far easier for those of us in the land of plenty to learn – thankfulness. But for some reason, it seems like the more we have, the less we take the time to be thankful.
How often do we not only overlook this particular piece of scripture, but also skip over it as we pray? How often do we ask God to meet our wishes and desires without first thanking Him for the fact that He has already met every single one of our needs? We ask “Dear Lord, please help me get this promotion” without first saying “Thank you, God for the roof over my head.” We pray “God, please watch over us as we travel on vacation” and forget to say “Thank you, Lord for the abundant blessings you bestow upon us every day.”
I didn’t speak their language and we had few opportunities to talk through an interpreter, but I didn’t need to hold a conversation with these people to know that they were grateful to God for what they had. I could see anytime they worshiped – it was in the joy on their faces, the way they sang at the top of their lungs, and danced without concern for who was watching because they knew it was beautiful to God.
I don’t think I have ever seen anything more beautiful in my life than the soulful worship of the people in Haiti. These people – who we would say had nothing at all – were thankful to God for everything He had given them. Even though some had leaky roofs, most had very little food, and all went without the modern conveniences we take for granted each day, they were joyful. Do you know why? It took me a little while to figure out too.
It’s because they had Jesus. They recognized that they may never have everything they want in this life, but they do have the one thing they need – a Savior.
If they can worship with such joy and abandon even amidst the poverty and illness, what on earth is stopping me from doing the same?