I came across a picture years ago of a Christian woman living in a refugee camp in Myanmar (formerly Burma).
She was squatting on a dirt floor; the walls of her home empty canvas rice bags. Few possessions and no adornment could be seen.
But amid the squalor, the picture captured something else—her radiant smile.
You could see in her eyes the pure joy she lived.
Where was it coming from? Surely from nothing seen.
I know her stooped back must ache, the struggle with cleanliness and the lack of necessities a constant reality.
Yet, here she was looking beyond her circumstances to the joy she found in Christ Jesus—and communicating to me that all is well.
You see, it wasn’t that long ago I used to wake up wearing glasses of negativity and despaired over my unmet needs: no light from a switch, no water from a faucet, no vacuum (is that a need?), and no car of my own.
Blessings, it seemed, were few.
Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts. James 4:3
How often do we lament our daily trials, yet overlook our many blessings?
How often do we allow our physical state of affairs to dictate our spiritual response?
I didn’t realize it at the time, but God was guiding me through a set of life circumstances especially tailored for my personal growth and dependence on Him.
Without these hardships, would I have grown to rely on God alone?
Without these difficulties, would I have been content to stay as I was?
And aren’t hardships relative, anyway? I mean, I may have dirt on my floor, but her floor IS dirt.
If she can smile—how dare I not?
I’ve since repented from the squalor of my ungrateful attitude and awoke to the simple fact that no ‘thing’ can take the place of the peace God gives.
No ‘thing’ is worth my salvation.
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Matthew 16:26
This woman was showing me with her smile that Christ is her white linen tablecloth; He is her cherry wood cabinets and state-of-the-art range. He is her hardwood floors and decorated walls. (Christ is the beauty we desire to behold.)
She was showing me with her smile the secret of a contented life.
The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant. Psalm. 25:14
My physical circumstances have changed somewhat since I looked upon that picture: I drive an old truck (thank you, God), use solar and oil lamps in my desert cabin (thank you, God), and have a gravity-feed water faucet that gives me a fat trickle at my kitchen sink (thank you again, God).
And although I still don’t have a vacuum nor the power to run it (a reality of off-grid living), instead of bemoaning my sorry existence, I’ve learned to smile as I squat on my rug with dustpan and broom to sweep the ever-present dirt there.
God’s Spirit is like that—giving you the power to change your heart even when your reality stays the same.
God revealed to me a secret in my dear sister’s smile—that contentment lies not in the façade of an ideal home, but in the spiritual foundation of my heart, which is Christ.
Oh, dear sisters, may we all come to the place where we can squat on a dirt floor and praise God!
Abiding in the Vine,
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The post “The Secret Was in Her Smile” was first published on Desert Rain.
Lone poppy photo credit: Craig Sunter, Survivor ! via photopin (license)
Additional photo credit: Eyeglasses via photopin (license)