I recently watched the documentary Father of Lights, which is a film about the Father heart of God and how He loves His people…us. It was an amazing depiction of how big and how powerful God is, but also how gentle and close and loving He is to us. Here’s a trailer if you’re interested:
Towards the end of the film, a man described two cultures in our world: a culture of conflict and a culture of comfort. The more you are in a culture of conflict, the more people seek God and help one another. The more you are in a culture of comfort, the more people turn away from God and from helping one another. Hm. So true!
Coming back from Uganda (a culture of conflict) to the U.S. (a culture of comfort) definitely involved some reverse culture shock. I have never seen such poverty and brokenness, but I have also never seen such hope and joy in the Lord despite such horrible circumstances. I mean, these people have lived through 20+ years of war! They have been through Hell and back, and they are still able to praise the Lord? I don’t understand.
Our team held art therapy workshops, drama therapy workshops, games, etc. with the children at the different villages we visited, but we were also able to do some home visits and see where some of these people lived. Our bus took us down narrow dirt paths as far as it could go before the roads got too narrow or muddy, and then we walked for miles (30-50 minutes) under the hot sun surrounded by tall grasses and fields of crops before reaching some of these homes we visited in the villages.
Our team met a lot of people and heard a lot of stories, but the main story that touched us the most was Adeline’s. Adeline explained that the LRA soldiers came to her house (literally in the middle of nowhere) and ordered her, her husband, their kids, and her sister and her newborn baby to get up and march. They walked for miles under the hot sun and then the soldiers ordered them to stop. They told her husband that he now had a choice–they could either kill his whole family in front of him, or kill him instead. Clearly, he opted to sacrifice his own life for his family…but they made Adeline kill him in front of their kids. What? This woman was sitting three feet away from me, telling our team her tragic story through a translator, stone-faced. Yup, so she killed him. She said she started going crazy and delusional afterward but the soldiers just told them to keep marching. Right. Like nothing happened. Then her sister’s baby started crying and the soldiers told her that she, too, had a choice–they could either kill her and her baby right there, or she could get rid of it herself. So she walked out into the field and set her baby down and they kept walking. Yup, just forced to abandon her baby.
At the end of this story, Adeline and her family started to sing a song. They were all smiling and we were all clapping along as they sang. Then the translator explained the lyrics to us: “God has saved me, I’m really happy. He has brought me back, I am really happy. Even though I was abducted and things happened to me, God has brought me back so I will praise His name.” What? Did you get that right, Mr. Translator? Is this the same woman in the story she just told us? (see below, in yellow)
It was unbelievable. How humbling and how challenging. Here we are, in our culture of comfort, complaining and “so depressed” because we don’t have the newest iPhone. And then here these people are, in rags and shambles, but still so joyful in the Lord. Who or what do we put our hope in?
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains–where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” -Psalm 121:1-2
“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.” -Psalm 62:5
Okay. We hear/say that all the time. “My hope is in the Lord.” But what does that even mean, right? It may be easy to say, “Of course these Ugandans hope in the Lord…they don’t have anything else!” But who’s to say your job, your health, your friends, or your family are going to be around tomorrow? Who’s to say any of that is guaranteed to you? And if any or all of those things were to be taken away from you, what would your reaction be? Is your hope truly in the Lord? Or is it in your success, in your relationships, in your wealth?
“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” -Psalm 25:4-5
I encourage you to take a step back and evaluate your priorities today. What are you living for? Will that outlast any trial or hardship your life may bring? I encourage you to put your hope in Jesus. He cares about you and is truly the only constant in this unpredictable and short life. We may reside in a culture of comfort, but we don’t need to live in it.