When we tell people that we live in Thailand, they often get a look of ‘Wow!’ and then follow with “That must be incredible.” Sometimes, they even add “I would love to live there. . .It must be like living in paradise.”
Well. . .
A lot of people do come to Thailand from other countries. They come for vacation, or they come for 3 to 6 months of the year to live in ‘paradise’. They leave the cold winters of their home country, to enjoy the heat and the beaches here in Thailand. They come from Sweden, Germany, and England. . .just to name a few.
So, you would think that it must be wonderful to walk around ‘paradise’ and see the happy contented faces of the foreigners that reside here for part of the year.
The friends they leave back in their home countries think, “Oh, if we only had the money, we too could be living the life. Living in Thailand part of the year, living at home the rest of the year, wow we would really be happy then.”
If they only knew. . .the sad truth is that as we walk around and see the foreigners around town, we don’t see the relaxed smiling faces you would expect. We see serious faces, grim faces, sad faces, faces of people searching for the next ‘thing’ to fill their lives. They march around the mall in search of stuff to fill the void they feel inside. They feel moments of satisfaction when they make the next big purchase at a great price. And when that feeling wears off, then the cycle starts again. . .the feeling of emptiness, and the ensuing search for fulfillment and joy.
Thai people tell me they think it is funny how foreigners come to Thailand and they are always in a hurry. They rush around the stores. They get impatient waiting in line. They speed around in their cars, and lean on their horns when others don’t move fast enough. They even talk quickly. And they can’t understand the slower pace of the locals, even though that was one of the reasons they came to Thailand.
So here I am in Thailand, and if you know me – you know this about me, I am a smiler. J I love showing and sharing the joy I feel. I kind of feel like smiles are a gift that we can share with each other.
Sometimes I will be walking toward a Thai person that looks a little sad, and I smile at them. . .and sometimes I see that they catch the smile. That a little joy has seeped into their hearts. Their eyes change from dismal to dazzling, and my heart overflows with joy and I pray that they will come to know the source of my joy, Jesus.
However, unfortunately that is not normally what I see in the faces of the foreigners. Most of the time, the foreigners avoid eye contact. They steel their eyes, look straight ahead, and rush right on by.
Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians and Philippians, that our circumstances do not determine our joy or our contentment.
Our joy, our sense of fulfillment does not come from the world. It does not come from living in what is considered ‘paradise’. Jesus says in John 14:1-4 ""Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.""
True paradise is living a life with God the Father, Jesus and The Holy Spirit, with the promise of eternal life with them in Heaven. In the meantime, it is not the part of the world that we call home that is important; it is seeking to honor and glorify God the Father, and to live thankful lives because of what Jesus did for us.
1 Thessalonians 5:
Vs 11 - "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up…”
Vs 16-18 ... “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
Philippians 4:11-13 "Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me."