“How have you coped with moving your children from one ministry situation to another?”
I’ve been asked this question a few times as ministry friends have started to think about moving on from one job to another. Most ministry families will move at least once, and for us wives it can be a particularly difficult time. We struggle with the sadness of leaving friends and family behind. We wrestle with worries about the future – how will we fit in? What will be expected of us?
And those of us who are mums are especially concerned about how the move will impact our kids. Are we doing what’s best for our family? Is it fair for our children make sacrifices for our ministry? Do we risk making them bitter towards the gospel?
My children were very young we when moved to a new city, so the move didn’t affect them significantly. But for me it was a huge wrench to leave the church family I’d been part of for 15 years, and whose love, support and practical help I’d come to rely on.
I was nervous about starting over in a new community – anticipating loneliness and loss. Would there be like-minded mums I could share openly with? Who would help me with the children when my husband couldn’t? How would I cope without my friends, my prayer partners, my babysitters?
12 years on, I look back on our ministry move with thankfulness for God’s kindness. He has shown me that I can trust him to provide and care for our family in every circumstance. And I often find myself applying what I learned through our move to the challenges our children now face as teens.
When they are ridiculed by their peers or teachers because they believe God’s word is true; when they are rejected by their friends because they choose to be holy rather than cool; when they are daunted by decisions regarding their futures, I can encourage their hearts (and mine!) with these truths:
God Is Sovereign over Every Day of Our Lives
When worries about the future press in, God’s word brings us hope. Psalm 139 reminds us that all our days have been ordained by our sovereign heavenly Father who created us perfectly, knows us intimately, and is with us eternally.
‘All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.’ Ps. 139:16
He has already determined where we will live and how we will serve him. We can’t mess up his plans for our lives. And we won’t mess up his plans for our children’s lives. Just as our days are ordained for us by a good, wise and loving Father, so are our children’s. We can trust him to do what is loving and best for each of us.
Our family’s move didn’t seem like a kindness at the time, but it was one of God’s most gracious gifts to us. My initial feelings of loneliness and sadness were his instruments to help me look to and rely on him for comfort, intimacy, wisdom, and security. My longing for friendship served to move me towards women I may otherwise have avoided because they were different from me – these women are now some of my closest friends. Starting over somewhere new as a “minister’s wife” brought fresh opportunities to share my faith. The future may be uncertain, but we can be certain that God is sovereign and his purposes for us are good.
Jesus Understands Our Sorrows
We all face fears, anxieties, disappointments, sorrows and anger at times. And we can entrust them to Jesus because he understands how we feel. He too experienced loneliness, grief, ridicule, rejection, and betrayal. He too left his home, his comfort, and his perfectly joyful and fulfilling relationship with the Father and Spirit, so he could serve us. Every pain, trial and sacrifice we may make for him, he has already made for us. We can bring every emotion to him confident that he is our merciful and faithful high priest (Heb. 2:27) and he is able to understand, comfort and help us.
We Are Not Home Yet
It’s natural to want to feel settled in our homes and neighbourhoods. It’s right to work at making our earthly homes welcoming and comfortable – for our families and for others. But we need to remember we’re not truly home yet. Our earthly homes are stopping points along the way to our final destination – eternity on the New Earth. This means we’ll always feel a little unsettled and not quite “at home” here. There will always be a longing for our true home that can’t be satisfied until we reach it. My ministry move was one of God’s gracious gifts to help me remember this.
I want to work hard to make our family home a place of rest and delight for my husband and children. But as I do, I need to remember that this house will never offer perfect comfort, security, peace, or joy. And that’s a good thing! As I imperfectly work at creating an imperfect home, I don’t need to despair when everything isn’t quite right, and I don’t need to be discouraged when there are still feelings of restlessness or discontent. These can serve to remind us that we’re not yet home – but our true home awaits us.
Our True Home Awaits Us
We may be exiles but our exile will end in the New Jerusalem. When we feel restless, insecure, lonely, or unsettled, we can look forward with hope to the perfect rest that is ahead. We look forward to the better country – the city God has prepared for us (Heb. 11:16).
We can persevere through the ups and downs, joys and sorrows of this life with our eyes fixed on what is ahead. We can joyfully anticipate our true and permanent home, remembering that God will physically dwell there with us – forever!
‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ (Rev. 21:3-4)
I need to remember this every day – even when things are going well. And, as my children wrestle with the tension of living in this world but not quite belonging to it, I need to remind them of it too.
Ministry moves can be painful. And, even if we don’t move, there will be other challenges that threaten to destabilise us and cloud our peace. When we’re tempted to give in to fear or distress, when we’re overwhelmed by sadness or grief, we can remind our hearts: Our heavenly Father is sovereign over our lives, and we can trust his good, wise and loving plans for us. Jesus fully understands the sadness, loneliness, and sorrow we experience in this life, and he can comfort us in it. We are not yet truly home, but we can rest secure knowing we’re heading towards an eternal home with our Saviour, Jesus – the one who was willing to leave his home to make a home for us.