In everything give thanks?
I spent part of the month of April in Haiti.
I was there as a part of a StoryRunners “advance team” to make preparations for an International School of Storying to take place there several weeks following. Our final day in Haiti had us getting up early so that we could pack our bags to make our flights home. As I was putting all of my things together, I discovered that my camera was missing. Cameras, of course, can be replaced. But the five days worth of photos could not. As I tried to mentally retrace my steps, the last photos I had taken were in the UN Cafeteria during one of our “recon” stops the previous day.
I alerted my host to my dilemma and off we went to search for the missing camera. The trip to the United Nations Base turned up nothing. I had already started thinking about how I would explain this to my wife, since I had insisted on taking her camera to Haiti and not mine.
Since we had ended the previous evening at the church we were going to use for the ISOS, we decided that a quick trip there couldn’t hurt. So we climbed in our vehicle and bumped along the uneven roads to the church – where I just knew my camera wasn’t. When we arrived, the pastor greeted us and we explained my problem. He helped us search every place where we thought it might be, but no camera was to be found. At that point, the pastor thought this would be a good time to pause “and thank the Lord.” He looked to me and asked, ”Will you thank the Lord that you now have no camera? God is in control – no? We must give thanks for all things – yes?” And he raised his hands, motioned to me that I should do the same, and looked to me to give thanks.
With little choice at this point – I did.
(If you have ever been in Haiti, that actually means, we did. We all did – everyone – in full voice, all at once.)
When I had finished my thoughtful thanksgiving, I looked up and the pastor was smiling. “Dear doctor – a man found your camera last evening near your seat. But I am glad you showed me you could thank God, even when you thought you had lost it.”
Three days before, I had spoken in this good pastor’s church on God’s providence. I had used the life of Joseph to illustrate it. That message, I am certain, had provided the context for this little “test.”
“God sees you. God knows you. God has a purpose for you. God may accomplish that purpose by sending us along a path that includes painful experiences. But God never wastes our pain. Pain does not mean that God has forgotten you. Pain does not mean that He has abandoned you. God is at work, in our joys and our sorrows, for our good and for His glory – to accomplish His eternal purpose. God is using our difficulties to take us places we would otherwise never go. He is using our difficulties to make us the people we would never otherwise become.”
Of course, a lost camera is a minor inconvenience, especially compared to the devastation that the Haitian people have experienced. But I guess my friend just wanted to see, in the midst of my niggling annoyance, if I actually believed what I had said.