Daily Devotions

Japan's Desperate Issue

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…and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. (Colossians 3:10)

My brother and his wife were stationed in Japan while they served in the military. They experienced some culture shocks. The vast number of people on a comparatively small island makes all space a commodity. Apartments are incredibly small and expensive. Even the subway systems are cramped beyond description. Yet, the Japanese culture, with its emphasis on respect and self-control, allows even the most-crowded public settings to remain almost comfortable. Still, amidst these conformist, cultural norms, Japan has the highest suicide rate among the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) nations. One of the most popular ways of acting out suicide for the Japanese is “…leaping from station platforms into the path of oncoming trains.”

The large number of Japanese citizens who have died by suicide is so substantial that it is a national issue. According to Citylab’s Allan Richarz, “To address the issue, stations across Tokyo and the rest of Japan installed chest-high barriers as a means of preventing suicide attempts.” “While there are hopes to have platform barriers installed in all 243 of Tokyo’s train stations by 2032 (at a cost of $4.7 billion), rail operators in the interim have come up with alternative approaches.” In the meantime, Japan is looking at other alternatives to care for its people.

At either end of one rail station, you can find a small, square, LED panel emitting a deep-blue glow. It is believed the deep-blue LED glow provides a sense of comfort and peace. While it might look like a bug zapper, “…it was designed to save lives.” The rail stations are also remarkably safe, but are working even harder to combat youth delinquency, so riders do not have to experience further stress by young people who are not following the careful cultural values.

Yet, at the end of the day, these actions are like slapping lipstick on a pig. Whether it is a wall, or a blue light, these actions are not getting to the heart of the problem. The real issue is the demands employers are placing on their employees. This, too, is a cultural, as well as a financial issue. When too much of our identity is placed on our occupation, and our ability to be a financial provider, we are walking on slippery sand. This is the primary issue in Japan. The average Japanese worker consistently works 65 or more hours per week.

Today, pray for the people of Japan, who are struggling with such dangerous issues as suicide and overwork. But also pray that all people around the world might know their value, as a child of God. It is based, not on how much you make financially, but on the fact that all people are made in the image of God. When we begin to judge ourselves and others as God judges, the world will become a safer, more comfortable place.

Are Weddings A Thing of the Past?

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Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. (John 2:2)

Recently, an article caught my eye, “Why Having a Wedding Makes Sense.” The writer was a young person, who got married in the last year, proclaiming the benefits of a wedding ceremony. This was not someone who even addressed religion in the article. Even from his secular perspective, having a wedding ceremony remained important. The unnamed author said he did not want to have a wedding ceremony, and I assume he did it for his significant other. But his attitude changed in its aftermath.

He named all the reasons why weddings shouldn’t be important: They cost too much. The emotional demands of writing the vows was overwhelmingly intimidating. Weddings often cause such stress that they create family dysfunction. Even if people come to your wedding, you don’t get enough time with any of them. Then, the event took place.

The writer realized the power in announcing your commitment in a formal ritual. There is meaning in bringing some of the most important people in your lives together to bless and celebrate your big decision. I assume the writer is a man and his statement is profound: “A wedding is not about the egos of you and your partner; it’s about sincerely thanking everyone for shaping you into the people you are today.

When you add the spiritual aspects of the wedding ceremony, it is even more profound. God brought the two together to become one. What could be a greater blessing than to thank God for the gift of love and commitment that brought you together. The wedding is but the beginning, and thanking God for your relationship also gives the couple the opportunity to publicly ask God for continued support and care. Ego, the money, etc., can all get out of hand, but planning a meaningful wedding can be a blessing to the couple – bringing families and friends together, and a blessing to God for the recognition. The author was right, weddings can be the firm foundation for a long and blessed marriage.

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