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What is Hardship?

I went to visit a friend’s family in Namibia after a tragic death.

The home was basically a cinder block building with a tin roof. There was sparse to no furniture and a dirt floor, no running water, and an outhouse in lieu of a toilet.

I remember thinking that I had no idea what hardship was...but did my friend?

Of course, to a person living in what I call the "tin hut city" just outside Windhoek, my friend's family lived in a castle. The tin huts are hotter, more flimsy, and the overall environment is much more dirty and often, dangerous.

Perhaps THEY know what hardship is...

Next, we could turn to homeless people in Haiti--some of whom are dying of AIDS or a similar illness. Brutal hardship is a way of life for them. Our options are plentiful. Sadly, there are no shortage of places to turn.

Hardship for American Christians

Of course, we probably don't really need to look oversees or even across the proverbial street to find "true hardship" do we? For almost three decades, I've listened to American Christians complain about their hardships. These are people living in the most prosperous, free, and beautiful country on the planet.

Their complaints?

Well...they include things like:

* Church starting too early for them...or too late (thus interfering with Football and other sports, etc.)

* Not being able to sit where they want to at church.

* Being asked to serve in a ministry

* Not being asked to serve in a ministry--or not often enough.

* Disagreeing with the pastor's ________________ (fill in the blank with anything from missions/outreach strategy, decisions on the budget/spending, sense of humor, approach to sermons, etc.).

* Having to commute too far to church and/or work (One man left our church, stopped praying, and "wrote-off God" because his work commute went from 15-20 minutes to about 45 minutes.)

* The style of worship music at their church.

* The church building...(numerous elements to this from how light/dark/warm/cold/big/little/ may be).

* The number of activities at church being too high...or too low.

* Etc...

The REAL Key

It seems to me that hardship is relative. Trying to define it as the lack of something is a never-ending challenge. Thus, I think the key for us is to learn what to with whatever hardships we think we face.

For THAT, I will turn to my friends in Africa and Haiti. They key to their emotional and spiritual survival seems to be their focus on the positive--what they DO have versus what they think they lack. Their ability to keep going is, in part, based on their unwillingness to compare to others and gripe about what "ought to be."

In brief, they actually believe what Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13--"(We) can do all things though Him who gives (us) strength." They also believe Philippians 4:8 that focusing on the good leads to victory!

What a concept. I think they are what I want to be when I grow up....

To that end,

Pastor Joel

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