by here)on APRIL 16, 2012 – (originally posted
It was a fairly eclectic group gathered around the dining room table Saturday night. A combination of old friends and acquaintances, family, and a special friend who had literally traveled around the world to be here.
All eyes were on our Thai friend Gift, who had come from Bangkok with her son Dift to stay with us for four weeks. She was sharing with those who came to her “welcoming party” about the dream she had to establish an export business.
The goal: to support her husband Dui’s ministry among the three distinct congregations, Bible study groups and the additional pastor training ministry he has established. Also to give Thai women an opportunity to earn a living in keeping with their considerable work ethic and skill.
Gift designs exquisite jewelry and has a growing team of Thai women who are able to make her designs by hand using certified-authentic gemstones from China and other places.
After sharing her brief story and dream, Gift’s focus changed to address my father-in-law, who was seated at the table with us. He had left Thailand with his family when Dui was just two years old and Gift was one. Though he hasn’t lived there since 1974, because of his frequent returns and ongoing relationships, he remains a hero there to this day. And that was the word – hero – that Gift used to describe how she and her husband saw Dr. Willis.
“We pray that we can have the same…” Gift was saying, and she paused, looking to no avail for the right English word. Finally, all she could do is say it in Thai.
“How do you say, gam-lang jai?”
My father-in-law stepped in to interpret his own deep compliment. “Gam-lang means ‘strength.’ Jai means ‘heart.’ Gam-lang jai means, among other things, ‘strength of heart.’”
Some people translate it “courage” or “spirit” or “will.” But even though I don’t speak Thai, I think the literal translation may be the best. Gam-lang jai means “strength of heart.”
“We pray we can have that,” Gift said.
So do I.
So should you.
Gam-lang jai speaks of a mental toughness that is willing to wait through the delays and disappointments, pointing the eyes of faith past the apparent impossibilities.
Gam-lang jai is a relentless love that keeps reaching, keeps giving, keeps caring and sharing, even when it is not reciprocated.
Gam-lang jai is a force of will that presses on against the dismay and discouragement of soul that threatens to derail us for good.
Gam-lang jai is the discipline to stay awake when a saner world sleeps, or to work when a lazier world rests because the need is great or the goal is meaningful and the end result is worth it.
Gam-lang jai is the courage to resist the haunting questions and self-doubt in those seasons where you wonder if you ever really do anything right. It lays hold of the truth that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Gam-lang jai is the self-sacrifice that comes with caring for that child who cries in the night, seemingly all night, or stays awake a bit longer to pray for that wandering adult child to come home.
Gam-lang jai is the mutual friendship of those who sharpen each other’s countenance, or who stick closer than brothers, even through strains and tests that would drive other friendships apart.
Gam-lang jai is the love for a population – a community, a region, or a nation – that would lead a person to invest their lives seeking the good of that place (Jeremiah 29:7), even when their efforts are criticized or misunderstood.
Gam-lang jai is the vision that turns a job into a cause, an investment, or a purpose that exceeds paychecks and transcends job descriptions.
Gam-lang jai is the generosity that lavishly, ridiculously gives time or money in order to meet needs, motivated by nothing more than the love of Christ and the needs of people.
Gam-lang jai is the ferocity with which we resist the enemy’s attacks on us, and go to war against the minions of hell with the authority of Christ on behalf of those who seemingly can’t fight for themselves.
Gam-lang jai is the glorious, rich heart of an otherwise failing, fearful woman or man who has just met with God.
“My flesh and heart may fail,” the psalmist said, “But God is the gam-lang jai and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).
In another place he prayed, “My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word” (Psalm 119:28).
Paul prayed for the Thessalonians that God would strengthen their hearts (gam-lang jai) so that they would be blameless and holy (1 Thessalonians 3:13). And for the Ephesians he prayed that out of the Father’s glorious riches He would strengthen them with power through his Spirit in their inner being (Ephesians 3:16).
As rare as it may appear, gam-lang jai isn’t a spiritual gift, reserved for a small class of super-saints. It’s the birthright of any believer who will draw near to God as God draws near to them. It is the natural result of the one who will wait upon the Lord until He renews their strength to mount up with wings like eagles. It is the privilege of any individual who will trust God, even in the face of their fears, sorrows, or overwhelming disappointments – to be for them what they can’t be for themselves – their gam-lang jai.
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).
How much gam-lang is in your jai? How many times recently have you resigned to the weariness or given in to the weakness? How many circumstances have reminded you that it makes sense to quit, or that losers like you just need to give up? How many people have left you feeling disappointed, shamed, rejected or abandoned – and tempted you to believe that this was the last word on you as a person?
It’s the nature of human hearts to grow weary and weak. But it’s just as much the nature of a loving God to give you eternal comfort and good hope by His grace. Trust Him to be your gam-lang jai. And as surely as hearts take flight under His everlasting arms, one day a new generation will look to you as its hero.