A Lesson From Indian Christians

What stands out most in my mind when I think of India are the people, young and old, rich and poor.  India itself is wonderful and terrible.  It is beautiful and ugly, a joy and a nightmare.  It’s the people that really make India.

The most outstanding lesson I take away from the Christians is their lack of expectations.  Alan and I talked about it often.  How can they live as they do?  Illness.  Poverty.  Persecution.  No hope of any change while on earth.  

Yet somehow, in India they don’t expect life to be any different than it is.  They don’t assume God will give it all to them.  They don’t think they are exempt from these difficulties which we would see as impossible.  They don’t see these limit as the exception, but as the norm in life.  It’s all they know and its all most of the people around them know.  They are not surprised and distracted by the harsh realities of their lives.  

To them, these things are life.  They happen to everyone, why should they not happen to them?  God has never promised they won’t.  The Bible shows no one is exempt.   Life experience shows everyone faces things.  They don’t expect or demand God makes things different for them.  They thank Him it isn’t worse.  They appreciate the help He gives through it.  They don’t base their feelings about God on the ease or difficulty of their earthly life.

In the USA we are taught by the American dream that we can have it all, by media advertisements we need it all and by politicians and the government that they will give it all.  So we expect it all. “What do you want for Christmas/your birthday?”  “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  These questions are not asked in India.  They can form mind set that says that life is all about me and my comfort and desires.  For the vast majority of Christians in India life is about surviving the present day so they can try to survive tomorrow when it comes.

Our fixation with “improving ourselves” affects our spiritual life as well.  We don’t pray to be faithful through the battle, we demand God make it so there is no battle.  We don’t thank God things aren’t worse, we question what we did to deserve even this.  We don’t ask how we can adjust and endure, we ask how we can better get God to answer our prayers and take any discomfort away.

I don’t want to glamorize or romanticize the Christians in India for they are sinners just like us  They struggle with their own failures, problems, weaknesses and disobedience.  Still, in this are we can learn from them.

Many secular studies show that third world people are happier and more content than those in the west (USA, Europe).  They studies conclude that the reason is because they accept life as it is and don’t expect that which will never happen.  Despite all we have in the west people are less happy!   According to western mindset, because we have so much more we should be happier than them.  But clearly it’s not our circumstances in life but our attitude to them that makes the difference.  There is never enough for a dissatisfied person.  But a satisfied person is fine with very little.

How can we become more content with what we have instead of focusing on what is difficult in our lives?  Paul said he had to learn to be content, so must we  (Philippians 4:11-13).  Yet that is very hard to do in our culture.  And it is very hard to raise our children to be content.  We have many expectations: of life, of self, of others and even of God.

But when God is our main resource, not the government or job security or family help, then we will trust Him more and depend on Him daily.  Maybe that’s why it seems I’m closest to Him when I’m in India.  I always need Him, but I realize it more clearly when I am there without my other resources and support systems.  Then I learn God is enough!Improving your situation in life is good, discontent is sin – there can be a fine line between the two.  Have you found it?  (Doylestown, PA, February 6, 2015)

Philippians 4:11-13  I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

What are you expecting God to do for you now that isn’t happening?  How else can you approach that situation? How can you change your prayer?

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