God, do you really care? Do you see these tears that I have cried again? Are you tired yet of hearing me pray about the same topic? Does pouring out my heart before you actually change anything?
These are just a few of the questions I have found myself asking in prayer over the years as a single, cross-cultural worker. Sometimes I dared to utter them out loud. Sometimes out of my disappointment and frustration, they simply lingered beneath the surface. Regardless, they were real questions seeking an answer.
As I wrote this, I was reminded of an old philosophical question: If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? I raise this question because I have often felt like the tree in that scenario. I wonder if you have too.
On a normal day, a variety of small frustrating moments would occur during my daily life in Japan. I would buy the wrong stamp. I would order the wrong item on the menu. I would forget the proper word at the most inopportune moment. These are just a few of countless examples. And although seemingly insignificant, these “little” incidents gradually wore on me, like rushing water against a stationary rock. And I would finish the day often feeling sad, but unable to articulate why. This without even addressing the more weighty matters pressing on my heart.
Which brings me back to the philosophical question I raised a few sentences ago: If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Or to put it in our terms: If I cry and no one sees, are they meaningful tears? If I sigh in discontentment and no one hears, does it carry meaning? If my heart aches in pain and no one is there to feel it, is it any less significant?
Before I attempt to answer those questions, I want to affirm that the struggle is real. The pain is valid. The longings are legitimate. Not that you need my validation. But sometimes it is helpful just to hear the words, “I understand.” Especially from a fellow cross-cultural worker who actually does understand, at least to a degree.
So in the remaining space I have, I hope to try to answer some of the questions I have raised. Not only from my own limited experience but more importantly from the perspective that truly does matter: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). To be perfectly honest, while this is an extremely profound truth, I sometimes questioned the extent to which it was true in my own life. “Jesus, can you truly sympathize with every weakness of mine?” Our dialogue would often go something like this:
Me: Jesus, I am feeling so alone, do you get that?
Jesus: I feel your pain, but I do understand. I too once cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Me: Ok, but do you know how hard it is to live in a different culture?
Jesus: I know it is hard, my child, but I do understand. Coming down from Heaven to be born as a baby and then growing up as a man in the Middle East was a bit different than my life in Heaven.
Me: Ok fine. But I am still single, Lord. Do you honestly get that?
Jesus: My son, I see your desire and it is good. But remember, I too was tempted in every way you were. I experienced the same human longings and desires, yet remained chaste and without sin until my death.
Me: Ok, Lord. I believe you do understand. Thank you. But do you know how hard today was?
Jesus: I do. But please come sit at my feet and tell me all about it. I’m here to listen and encourage your precious heart.
In closing, I want to return to the question I began with: “God, do you really care?” When I see the tears Jesus cried, I find the answer to be “Yes.” When I see his nail-scarred hands, I hear Him say “Yes, I care”. When I see the empty tomb, His victory shouts “I care”. And when even these glorious truths and seemingly nothing else encourages my despairing soul, I simply rest at the feet of Jesus. And there, I am renewed by his sweet presence, tender smile and reassuring words: “I love you and I care.”
What makes it personally hard for you to continue to believe that Jesus cares?