Pastoral Perspectives

Waiting on the Lord

My family and I finally flew to Japan on 17 March after many weeks of waiting for our visa to be approved. Japan is unique as we are able to go there formally as missionaries but it takes some time to get the necessary approvals to do so.

When we had submitted all our forms and documents in December, I had thought that we had given ourselves plenty of time for our visa to arrive. As we planned we believed that God was preparing us to go on 4 March. We calculated that this was the best date possible as it would give us roughly one month to settle down in Japan before the school term starts in April. But with each passing week and no news yet of the approval, this deadline only served to increase our anxiety. Even so, I refused to allow myself to doubt, fearful that this amounted to a lack of faith in God’s provision.

Below is the progression of my thoughts during this period:

  • “Isn’t He the God of the impossible? I’m sure He will make a way where there seems to be no way!”
  • ”Surely God knows that if we don’t go to Japan by 4 March, it’s going to be a struggle to be settled in time so that the children can be ready for school”,
  • “Didn’t God tell us that we should go by 4 March? Why would He do that and then not give us the visa in time?”

After much prayer and reflection, we began to realise that it was not that God had revealed the date to us but we were the ones fixated on it. My prayers had begun to sound less trusting, instead becoming increasingly more urgent pleas for God’s hand to move things in our favour.

The depth of my hypocrisy jumped out at me one day while I was deep in thought. How could I profess to be a servant to an all-knowing, almighty God and yet act as if His chief role was to serve and fulfil my needs.  What gave me the right to assume that through prayer, God would just simply give me my visa right now when I wanted it? If I truly believed that God’s will is perfect and He is completely in control, I should then trust that whenever I got the visa was exactly when God intended it.

The struggle continued all the way until it finally became clear that we were not going to receive our visas till a later date. Ironically, it was only when I had no choice but to completely surrender the matter into God’s hands, that I finally received the peace in my heart that had eluded me before.

Despite my unfaithfulness, God blessed the extra time that He gave us in Singapore. We were able to spend more time with family, find a tenant for our apartment and settle many things that may have been overlooked had we gone earlier. It felt good to be able to complete these things without having to burden someone else to do them in our absence but it was also a stinging reminder for us to trust God and that His timing is best. Proverbs 16:9 says it best:       

            “The heart of man plans his way,
            but the Lord establishes his steps.”

Now that we are here in Kyoto, these lessons are serving us well as we wait on God’s timing yet again for many matters such as renting a house and registering for schools. We have heard time and again from other missionaries that, despite being a first-world country, things don’t happen quickly in Japan. It looks like our lessons in trusting God and abiding by His timing have not ended and this is but the beginning of a much longer journey of trust in His faithfulness. 

Despite all that we have been through, we are not yet perfect and still get anxious about many things. However, through our Master’s gentle correction, we hope that His love and peace will be what carries us through each trial. We need to remind ourselves again and again to wait upon the Lord and adopt a humble attitude. After all, aren’t we all just servants waiting on our just and gracious Master?

As a side note, we would like to thank all True Wayians who have been praying and encouraging us through our transition. Thank you for journeying with us! We’d also like to thank those who came to see (and pray!) us off at the airport. It was really heart-warming to us that you took the time and effort on a Sunday evening to show us your support. We are truly blessed to have such loving and caring brothers and sisters in Christ and your thoughts and prayers mean a lot to us.

Sean Tan (Missionary to Japan)

March 31, 2019