Lent Devotion: March 22nd
9Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye wastes away from grief,
my soul and body also.
10For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my misery,
and my bones waste away.
11I am the scorn of all my adversaries,
a horror to my neighbors,
an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
12I have passed out of mind like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
13For I hear the whispering of many—
terror all around!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.
14But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
15My times are in your hand;
deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
16Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your steadfast love.
There have many times when I have been told, “Oh, how lucky you are that as a missionary you could go back home to Japan.” Although I do feel a strong sense of calling to be doing evangelism in Japan and feel blessed in my work, I’m not sure I feel particularly “lucky.” Growing up in rural Japan with a Christian mother in a town of 12,000 people without a single church and being the only child in the entire elementary school that believed in Jesus was not an easy thing for me. I watched my mother being shunned by her neighbors much like David describes in the psalm we read today. When I came to Holland, Michigan, in 1987 to study at Western Theological Seminary, for the first time in my life I no longer had to worry about what my neighbors were saying about my Christian faith. Even later when I lived in Chicago and then in New York City, where there are large numbers of people of other faiths and of no faith, I never had to feel I was being shunned by the entire neighborhood because of my faith.
When the RCA advertised in the Church Herald in the fall of 1993 that they were looking for a new couple to send as missionaries to Japan, my initial response was that I had no desire to return to Japan and go back to the difficulties that confronted me growing up. It was only after much prayer that I reached a point at which I could join David in declaring, “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand” (vv. 14-15).
Although there certainly have been many hardships in the past two decades, God has continued to show steadfast love in watching over us.
Prayer: Dear God in heaven, whenever we travel through seasons of hardship and difficulty, we pray that David’s words might come alive in our hearts so that we too can trust in the Lord and declare, “My times are in your hand.” We pray this in Christ’s precious name. Amen.
Sayuri Kist-Okazaki and her husband, Abraham, work in evangelistic training for congregations of the United Church of Christ in Japan, where less than 1 percent of the population is Christian. They also serve as associate pastors at Kugahara Church in Tokyo, in the area of local mission.