Have you ever come across a story that walloped you right between the eyes? This one, reported by Tim Stafford in Christianity Today, did it for me.
Lalani Jayasinghe lived in the southernmost part of Sri Lanka in a simple home with no plumbing. A widow of twelve years, Lalani had few earthly reasons to be joyful and content. But she was a Christian and an active member of her local church.
A few years ago, Lalani was chosen to represent her church for a meeting in the capital city of Colombo to discuss the current challenges Sri Lankan Christians were facing with persecution. Lalani had personal experience with persecution. While at home with her son one day, her husband was brutally killed by local monks hostile to followers of Jesus.
Lalani took the all-day trip to Colombo for the meeting where many churches were gathering for updates, prayer, and support. They wanted to strategize on how to respond to the violence they were facing.
Stafford tells her response:
When asked how things were with her church, she replied, “Wonderful! Praise the Lord!” Later she gave a more detailed report, telling how the local opposition had that week organized a protest march against her church, and then burned the thatch roof.
Stunned by this news, someone in the meeting asked why she said that everything was wonderful. “Obviously,” she answered enthusiastically, “since the thatch is gone, God must intend to give us a metal roof!”
Tim Stafford, “The Joy of Suffering in Sri Lanka,” Christianity Today (October 2003), vol. 47, no. 10.
So let me see if I have this straight: Lalani is a victim of violent persecution. She’s already experienced tremendous personal loss, then local mobs burn the roof off her church. Yet her response is praise.
Honestly, I don’t think I would have come within a mental mile of her interpretation of that event. If a hurricane rips the roof off my house tonight, I’ll be thinking of insurance, not roof upgrades. But Lalani had her eyes set on something higher.
Why don’t I see life that way? Why don’t I look at ministry problems like this? What’s the big difference between Lalani and me? I think it comes down to one dream-shaping, risk-taking, resilience-inspiring, life-transforming word: Faith.
The Eyes of Faith
There’s a verse in Scripture that hijacked my brain a few years ago and stays there, stubbornly arguing with me anytime a proverbial roof catches fire in my life. It’s a persistent sentence that defines the difference between Lalani’s perspective and the way I so often respond to far less ominous obstacles in my life.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6).
You probably noticed this passage is from Hebrews 11, the great faith chapter of the Bible. Here the author gives examples of faith-filled heroes like the patriarch Abraham, who left everything to obey God; Sarah, a senior citizen who believed God for a child; Moses, who refused the riches of Pharaoh to identify with God’s people. Folks just like Lalani. Folks not like me.
If people like me are to be ambitious for the things of God, we need to be rescued from shortsightedness. Like Lalani, we need to learn to see beyond the fire that burns a thatch roof, beyond the botched sermon or that member’s meeting that didn’t go so well. Too many of us are wearing blinders that have narrowed our gaze.
Here’s what we tend to forget. God hasn’t called us to live by sight. He’s called us to live by faith. And what is faith? “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). When your roof is burning, when your friendship is melting down in conflict, when you’re wringing your hands in grief over a lost loved one, or wringing your hands in anger after the phone call from the police to come pick up your kid, it won’t be the things you can see that will sustain you.
Are you waking up after a hard week? Hebrews 11 says by faith some “suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated” (Hebrews 11:36–37). By faith all these, people like Lalani, laid hold of hope even in the most challenging and excruciating of circumstances. They wore no blinders. By faith they had caught sight of the better country. And how did God assess their faith in the midst of great trials? He says that they are those “of whom the world is not worthy” (Hebrews 11:38).
Listen, a life of faith isn’t optional. We need the God-sightedness Lalani has—seeing a life beyond the fire. Left to our own devices, that’s an impossible order. We can’t cook this up within ourselves.
Thankfully, Hebrews 11:6 doesn’t leave us wondering what to do. Just like Lalani, we need to believe two things: God exists and he rewards those who seek him.
Tenacious Tuesday Questions
What trials have you been going through recently that have been consuming to the point of causing you to forget the goodness and the power of God? What recently has clouded your eyes of faith? What does it look like to see that situation through the eyes of faith?
Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. Give me faith to see beyond the discouragement of this present moment and, like Moses, look to you. Help me to believe all you have revealed about yourself. And help me look to the promised reward.
Photo by Zach Vessels