On a cloudy day in a thick forest near Mount Fuji, I found myself facing a fear beyond anything I had ever experienced. This wasn't just fear for me, it was fear for my family. What had I done to them?
I walked the narrow mountain track, my heart pounding, my stomach in a knot.
At age 33, I had been appointed as a missionary to Japan by a mission board that hadn't sent a missionary to Japan for 15 years. Very little was known about keeping a family in that field. And I had been all-too-eager to prove we could make it happen.
Unknowingly, I had taken my wife and four young children on a mostly unknown and deeply troublesome mission. We simply hadn't been prepared -- spiritually, financially or emotionally -- to find ourselves immersed in an old Shinto-Buddhist neighborhood.
With everything in me, I hated the idea of letting down everyone who had been praying for us and supporting us. I was petrified to tell the mission board what we really needed to survive Japan's exorbitant cost of living. In Japan there were no checks accepted. Most bills were paid in cash, including the utility companies whose representatives kept coming to our little house to collect money for the payment. But we usually had no way to get any cash.
At some bend in the pathway that day, I distinctly remember how a particular verse from the Old Testament suddenly sliced through the fog of anxiety and commanded my attention. They were words Moses spoke to the terrified people of Israel just before God parted the Red Sea for them.
And right there, amidst the chaos of my lost perspective and confusion of unbelief, the Holy Spirit spoke to me from Exodus 14:14 (NLT): "The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm." The Holy Spirit spoke to my heart with words like these: "When man calls you and you get into trouble, you call on man to save you. When I call you and you get into trouble, you will call on Me to save you."
I got that. And I called.
He was showing me that no matter what dark, turbulent oceans lay before me or those I care about, He is the only One who can part them. Moses could not, Pharaoh could not, I cannot, nor can you part the seas of impossibility.
This is a truth I must relearn -- and practice -- again and again. God parts Red Seas, He doesn't remove them. And as much as I need, love and appreciate people, they cannot save me.