What better way to begin a new year than to travel to India and Myanmar!? Right? 2017 has marked the year when I finally stepped off of a plane into the eastern hemisphere—praise the Lord! It was a long time coming, yet my mind was filled with anticipation for the unknown.
I began my three-week journey through these two countries, located in Southern Asia, in the city of Hyderabad, India. After that, my colleague and I traveled throughout southern India taking in diverse sights, tastes, smells, and sounds. I have seen many photos of India over the years, but that didn’t compare to seeing such a vast country with my own two eyes. India is slightly more than one-third the size of the United States.
India has a population that is 11 times larger than the US and you never forget it. Whether driving through the country or large cities, you see people everywhere. Similar to the US, there are miles and miles of farmlands in between small and large cities. The farmlands are surrounded by tall palm trees, mountains, and various animals roaming around.
In 2014, India reported that 29.5% of its population lived under the poverty line. That is a crazy figure. While commuting from place to place, I passed through many tiny villages in shocking need of improvements. Some homes were made of concrete while others were made from mud. Mud! Imagine not having a front door but a crawl space instead. I would never consider that a home. Yet, for many, that was all they could afford.
Day labor work is the most common job held by those living in poverty. They could work on farms, do construction for the local city, sweep the streets, or make bricks. Their wages could be as low as $1.50 USD a day. That wouldn’t go anywhere in the US!
Growing up, I always heard that people who live with little in developing countries are so happy despite having so little. Is that a universal theme? When I met people with little, did they still experience happiness despite their economic status?
What did I find? I met genuine people of all walks of life who laughed, made me smile, and fed me until my heart was content. Then… there were those who only saw what they were deprived of.
Hmmm… sound familiar?
The Lesson I Learned
No matter where you live, how rich or poor you are, gratitude is a choice not a given.
Paul points out the importance of being content with where God has us in life (Philippians 4:11). I was looking for others to show me how to be content—proof that a simpler life guarantees happiness. I have to look to God to show me how to daily live with a content heart. Otherwise, I will find myself saying, “See, they’re not content. I told you it’s not really possible.” Or, “They are struggling the most, of course, they’re unsatisfied. It’s completely understandable.”
“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” ~James 5:13
God continues to teach me that no matter what, He is worthy of my trust and faith. For “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). I trust that God knows what he is doing with my life. The future is unclear to me but completely in His hands.
God is not required to provide me a certain lifestyle in order for me to deem Him worthy of my faith. Whether I am rich or poor, destitute or a billionaire, have my dream job or one that just pays the bills, God is worthy of all the praise that I am capable of expressing.
What Our Culture Says
The American culture equates wealth with happiness. When we’re rich, we’ll finally be filled to the brim with contentment; when we’re rich, we will be happier. This notion of “more=happiness” is even introduced to us at a young age. Remember those commercials that showed all those smiling children surrounded by every toy known to mankind in their room? Yep, from a young age.
The master Potter designs for our circumstances help perfect our character. It could be that we’re lacking patience or a giving spirit. Whatever it is, God instends to make us more into his likeness. Don’t let your circumstances define you or your worth. He knew us before we were even born! No one knows you like He does.
My trip to India and Myanmar will be cherished memories as long as I live. Being around people who think differently, cook different types of foods, and dress differently is wonderful! God’s love was visible even in a predominantly Hindu country. I can’t wait until God opens the door for me to visit Asia again.
What is the hardest part of being content in a “more-is-better” culture? What helps you to be content? Share your thoughts with me.