Today's post is in response to a recent comment by a young friend who seemed to think that if I and others like me (Christians) could get over our religious baggage - "throw away your Bibles" - and instead embrace the technology, progressiveness, and modernity of a country like Japan, then the world would be a much better place.
While I appreciate this young man's passion and his boldness in expressing his opinion, I am afraid that he has been looking at Japan through Thomas Kinkade eyes.
I have two family members who have planted their feet on Japanese soil. They wanted to see this amazing country for themselves and to get acquainted with the people. They have invested their hearts, time, prayers, and energy in the people of Japan.
What they saw and what they learned in Japan broke their hearts. By extension, my children's knowledge and experience have also broken my heart, and have created in me a burden for the people of Japan.
Japan is one of the richest nations in the world. The country has little poverty, low unemployment, healthcare for almost everyone, and 100% literacy. You're right, Daniel - Japan is a wonderful place.
Japan also has the second highest suicide rate in the industrialized world, in spite of the fact that it dispenses more anti-depressant medication than any other country in the world. Martha said that daily, commuter trains are delayed due to "technical difficulties" - a euphemism for "another person just committed suicide by throwing himself in front of the train, and we need a few minutes to clear the track."
This occurred so frequently that other passengers seemed to think nothing of it. Just a normal part of the daily commute.
Yes, Daniel, there is much that is very, very good about Japan. There is also much that is broken and dark and hurting.
So, no, Daniel, I am not going to throw away my Bible. Instead, I am going to open it and read about a good and sovereign God who loves the broken and hurting people of Japan - people who are so discouraged that throwing themselves in front of a high-speed train seems a better alternative to living one more day in such a "perfect" world - and I'm going to get on my knees before that God and plead for mercy, grace, and hope.
(For those who really would like to know more about Japan and about gospel work in Japan, click HERE to read more, or you can watch a short video HERE.)
Wish You Were Here: Letters From the Foot of the Cross
It is difficult to imagine that someone with an ideal family, a Ninja body, and a six-digit income can relate to my messy life in the middle of a hay field: my pants are too tight, my marriage is stressed, and my closets are a disaster.
But the truth is, life is messy...whether you look like you have your act together or not. If you are struggling in the trenches of life with muck up to your eyeballs, then you and I have something in common. Welcome!
This collection of "letters" explores the practical implications of the gospel for the nitty-gritty business of everyday life. Join me on a journey to discover strength for the day, encouragement to persevere, and flashes of joy to brighten the way.