My in-laws are currently here in Nicaragua for their first visit. It’s also their first visit to Latin America and to a developing country. This Sunday we took them to our church, which is a large Spanish speaking congregation here in Managua. We were a little nervous because our church is known for being very loud, very contemporary, people dancing in the aisles, people walking up to you and praying for you, etc. Near the end of the service, my father-in-law turned to me with tears in his eyes and choked out “this is the most meaningful service I’ve ever been to.” This was surprising to me because they could not understand 95% of what was said because of the language barrier. Afterward, I asked him what he meant by his comment. He said he was amazed that people who have suffered so much could be so joyful. He knew many of the people in the church have lives that are incredibly difficult, yet they are so passionate about expressing their love for God. He felt guilty that while his life has been blessed in so many ways, he seldom expresses his love for God in a passionate way.
Many visitors from the U.S. struggle to understand how the extreme poor here can get through all the difficulties they face. Most struggle to provide even the basics for their family, such as safe food and water, secure housing, adequate education, and quality healthcare. Yet, they often live with joy in their hearts. How? One big answer is spiritual maturity. Many of my Nicaraguan friends don’t rely on the world to bring them joy, but fully lean on God for everything in their lives. How often do those of us in the States, who have been materially blessed in so many ways, not lean on God for our happiness? Instead, our mood bounces all over the place based upon how well things are going for us in our relationships, our jobs, our bank accounts, etc.
I’d like to offer today that many of us, myself included, suffer from spiritual immaturity. Our connection with God is, in reality, so weak that we have to rely on the world to make us happy. The big problem happens when the difficulty and tragedy strikes. If our faith is weak and immature, how do we handle that?
That’s the whole point of the sometimes confusing Book of Job. Job was able to endure an unfathomable amount of suffering because he was mature in his faith. He was deeply connected in God and trusted God’s ways. He focused on the big picture of God’s love, presence, and eternal plan rather than the physical and material. As a result, he was able to endure all sorts of difficulties. How is your spiritual maturity? Do you have a deep enough connection with God that you can be joyful in all situations? Or, are you relying on the events of the world to bring you joy and happiness? I encourage you to do everything you can to become more and more secure and mature in your faith, because when you do you will experience a life of love and joy even in the most difficult of circumstances.