Snow swirled around me and piled high on the path. Tears streamed down my face as I trudged home from language school. Why did I leave Australia to come to Japan as a global worker? As I struggled through the heavy snow, God’s comfort seemed distant. My spirit felt numb to His touch.
To distract myself from the cold, I rehearsed what I would say to my husband, David, over lunch. Several phrases swirled inside my head as the snowflakes wafted past my face. The events of the morning replayed over and over. David’s former teacher, now my own, looked very disappointed with his new student. The memory triggered an avalanche of tears each time I rehashed the morning.
David, busy in the kitchen, did not see my red-rimmed eyes as I entered our tiny apartment.
“How’s it outside?” he asked.
“You won’t like it,” I mumbled. I didn’t want to talk. David was one of the reasons for my tears. It hurt to see my gifted husband grasp Japanese with little effort, when I laboured each day over vocabulary lists and basic grammar. Only later did I figure out that comparison was unhealthy, but right then, it seemed impossible to avoid. It felt as if I were hiking with my best friend and trying not to notice that she was several miles ahead. The situation was not easy for David either. He couldn’t change how God made him. He couldn’t narrow the gap between us.
In the afternoon, emotions overflowed to my dearest friend in an email. “Poor David had to put up with a weepy wife coming in the door this morning. He tried to think of some way to help me, but the best comfort right now is to pour out my feelings to you . . .Please hug me. I miss you . . . Have to stop there or will flood the keyboard.”
Months later, my tears of frustration and weariness overflowed into another email to the same friend. “I’m having one of those days again. Church is not fun at the moment. This morning a lady asked me, ‘Why do you always looked stressed and worried?’ I must look pretty bad. I worry no one will talk to me. I worry that if someone does, I won’t understand. I don’t want to go to church here anymore. It’s too hard. They say it takes ten years before you are comfortable with the language. I can’t wait that long.”
I needed exceptional concentration to understand the Japanese language used for Sunday school, church, and social interactions. In addition to struggling with the language, our energetic, unpredictable two-year-old son required close supervision during worship-time. His behaviour during church and Sunday school frequently threatened the quiet, traditional atmosphere.
After a year of study, however, I continued to struggle with the language. Like trying to run in deep, dry sand, the harder I tried, the more difficult it became. Weary and drained, I lacked the energy I needed to perform other important duties. Toilet training my son filled my non-study hours. Soon I too was dashing to the bathroom, as I battled morning sickness in my second pregnancy. Study became more loathsome.
One day I glanced at a verse on my desk. “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour” (Habakkuk 3:18 NIV).
Why did the verse start with ‘yet?’ I took a short break in my language study to check out the context. Verses 17-19 read:
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no
cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. The sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights.”
Encouraged, I sensed Habakkuk saying: I will rejoice in the Lord, even without results I can see or touch. After the prophet chose to rejoice, the Lord became his strength and enabled him to go on. I longed to soar. For release from the disappointment I felt when I saw no results from my effort.
I prayed, “God, enable me to choose joy. To rejoice in You, no matter what results I see from my studies.”
My next email to my dear friend and her husband included this, “Thank you, dear friends, for your prayers. God heard you. He calmed my heart over the last couple of days. The Lord blessed me with a true friend in each of you. I often thank God for you.”