The decision has been made. At the end of academic year 2008-2009, my family and I are going to leave the host country and return to the US. It’s time.
Truthfully, it’s kind of a scary time. If you’ve ever moved house before, you know that change is not easy. Moving internationally is especially difficult. Particularly when it involves four small children and a large degree of uncertainty. We own no home in the states. We have no car. At this point, there is no job waiting for me to take on. At times, the whole situation looks more like immigration rather than repatriation.
Now is not a good time for well-meaning Christians to pelt us with talk about God’s will, but they do. A sister from church that I really like said to me recently something about “If it’s God’s will…” and I just winced. Sure, God is Supreme and His will is ultimately done. I’ve no argument with that. The problem is that much of the time, my evangelical brothers and sisters pronounce “God’s will” over events and circumstances when, to be blunt, they haven’t the slightest clue what God’s will is. Later, when circumstances change, (usually from positive to negative) they retract their comments and revise their pronouncements, as if it is never God’s will that anyone ever go through some sort of negative experience. The fact is that sometimes it is God’s will that folks go through hard times. Jesus showed us that and yet so many Christians divine God’s will based on degrees of adversity or outward signs of “success”. When it’s easy, when it’s successful, God has paved the way. When it’s hard, we’re outside of God’s will. That sort of thinking is just plain wrong.
So where is my comfort in these anxious times? If I can’t confidently say that this move and all of its accompanying changes are God’s will for my life, where will my wife and I find peace? I trust in God. Good, bad or indifferent, I trust in God. I pray for opportunities for work. I tell Him what I’m afraid of. I ask for His comfort, strength and wisdom. I wrestle with the verse that says “Seek the kingdom of God first and all of the other stuff will be added as well”, and try to understand how that applies to my circumstances. There are times when I feel peaceful and there are times when I don’t, and that’s an acceptable way of life. It certainly seems to be the way it was for so many of the people we read about in the Bible. Moses had his good days and bad days. Joseph experienced triumph and tragedy. Pretty much any major character you choose to focus on in the Scripture can be seen going through both good and bad, certainty and uncertainty and God is always there. Sure, some of those people were blessed to have God say in clear terms precisely what He wanted from them, but not everyone experienced that. God never told Joseph that he was made a slave in Egypt to save his family from starvation. God never told Esther that she’d been made queen to protect the Jews from annihilation in Persia. Yet, in their anxious days filled with questions about their future, they trusted in God. I should follow their examples and do the same.
What about “God’s will for my life”? His will is clear enough. Seek the kingdom first. Love my neighbor as myself. Love my wife as Christ loved the church. Raise my children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Do all for the glory of God, without complaining. I could go on, but I think you understand what I’m getting at: God’s will for my life is clear. The context for living out His will for my life is what’s hidden, or perhaps it is not hidden. Perhaps, God gives me the right and responsibility to choose the context for living out His will that I know. This is what I believe and honestly, it’s really difficult. Taking responsibility, at least for me, is always a challenge. Sure God could speak to me from flaming shrubbery, but I’m much more likely to grow and mature in my faith if I’m allowed to struggle with taking responsibility for my life and choosing the career, the relationships, the culture in which I am to obey the will of God that He has already made clear in Scripture.