“I had a fight with my parents, so I ran out of the house,” said Mai. My friend had called me from a nearby supermarket at 10 in the evening.
Mai has a difficult relationship with her parents. She resents her father for his abusive behaviour since her childhood, and her mother for not protecting her from his abuse. This has deeply impacted her emotional health and self-esteem, and she is currently seeing a psychologist.
Mental health issues are prevalent in the Japanese society. The pressure to maintain harmonious relationships means that people often feel they cannot express their true feelings (honne) or confront issues. And this can result in strained relationships, unprocessed emotions, and psychological problems.
Although Japanese people are known to be reserved I have been surprised how many of my friends have shared with me their stories of deepest struggles and pain. While I feel honoured by their vulnerability and I care for my friends, it can be overwhelming and burdensome and my heart aches with theirs. I’m tempted to offer quick words of comfort or try and “fix” them and their problems. However, I have found that more than anything, people appreciate it when I simply listen and pray with them. I have been surprised how even non-Christian friends are receptive to prayer and are moved or comforted by its power.
Sitting with others in their suffering is not easy. Much spiritual discernment and sensitivity are needed, but these can also be opportunities to bring our friends to Jesus who is the shepherd and overseer of their souls.
Pray with me for missionaries in Japan that we will know the right time to speak and act. Pray for the Japanese people to turn to Jesus in their suffering and find true comfort and hope.
Name changed for privacy.
By an OMF missionary