Article by Sam Beh
August 2019. That’s when Jess and I, together with our sons, Josiah and Ezra, packed our bags and flew halfway across the world from Singapore to Canada to live in Vancouver, BC. Different continent, different culture, different climate, lots of different things to adjust to. Here are some lessons God has been (and still is) teaching me about moving to live in a new place.
The best thing I can do for my loved ones is to be obedient to God’s call
One thing about moving to live in a new place is that your decision impacts more than just you. It impacts the people you bring along with you. And it also impacts the people you leave behind. My own responses to these have often been responses of anxiety and guilt. Anxiety at how my decisions might impact the people I love in the future. Guilt at how my decisions have and are impacting them in the past and present. Each time I am wracked with anxiety or guilt, I have to bring my anxiety and guilt to the Lord. I ask God if I am where He wants me to be, and meditate on Matthew 6:33 and Romans 8 as I ask him help me trust that the best thing I can do for my loved ones is to be obedient to God’s call for my life and to trust in His sufficient provision.
Things will get difficult, and that doesn’t mean you’re in the wrong place
Things will get difficult regardless of where we live. However, living in a new place will often surface new and different difficulties. You will need to adjust to different people and different surroundings and different routines. People will probably treat you differently from what you’re used to because they have no idea what you were like before you moved. If you’ve gone from being in the majority to being in the minority, there’ll be days when you get tired of being different. The way you speak, the way you look, the way you think, even the things you eat. You will probably get cultural fatigue and wish that things were no longer different.
Again, when things have been difficult, I have had to bring my struggles to the Lord and ask Him if I am where He wants me to be. Because Galatians 2:20 reminds me that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. 1 Corinthians 10:31 reminds me that I live for God’s glory alone. My priority in life is no longer my own comfort, but to be where God wants me to be, so that I can bring Him maximal glory in spite of (or perhaps because of) my light and momentary discomfort (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
In moments of disorientation, remember where is your true home
Living in a new place often brings moments of disorientation. Gone are people and places that used to help orientate you, and the familiar sights and sounds and smells and tastes that felt like home. Part of the disorientation of moving to live in a new place is losing clarity of where home is. Hebrews 11:8-16 has been so precious to me in moments of disorientation. It reminds us that our true home is in heaven. Our true home isn’t any city on earth, it is the heavenly city that God has prepared for all His people. Therefore, we can follow God’s calling to leave everything and follow him. We can follow him even when we do not know where we are going, because we walk by faith and not by sight, looking not to things that are seen but to things that are unseen (2 Corinthians 4:17; 5:7).
Don’t worry about planning for forever
One of the first things people often ask when they hear that you’ve just moved to a new place is, “how long are you staying for?” For some of us, we might have a clear time-frame in mind. For others of us, we simply don’t know, and that can be source of stress. What God has been teaching me in this regard is that it’s not my responsibility to plan for forever, and that, for the plans that I have made, I need to hold them loosely as I bring them under God’s plans for me. Don’t get me wrong, it is important to be diligent in planning ahead (Proverbs 21:5). And as you do have clarity about your plans, it is good and right to share them with others as appropriate. Wherever you live, it is also important (and Biblical) to live as though you plan on staying and to seek the welfare of the city (Jeremiah 29:7).
However, with all these caveats in place, I’ve been learning not to worry about planning for forever. When people ask me “how long are you staying for?”, I’m learning to share what God has put on my heart, while also not making promises and commitments that are not in my power to keep. Often, God only gives us enough light to know our next step, and not the whole journey ahead of us, and I am learning to acknowledge that. Doing so is not being non-committal or irresponsible, but acknowledging that I am living under God’s Lordship over my life. While I may have plans, it is God who ultimately establishes my steps (Proverbs 16:9).
Remember to look both forward and back with thanksgiving
When you move to a new place, it’s common to miss where you came from, and it’s okay to spend some time looking back, spending time investing in people from where you came from. However, I have been learning that we must be careful not to spend so much time looking back that we can’t see where God is bringing us. When we move to a new place, it can be a temptation to make it our main priority to re-create a life that looks exactly like the one we came from, where the people we spend time with, the food we eat, even the language we speak every day is exactly like where we came from.
When God rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites spent so much time looking back that they weren’t able to be thankful and appreciate where God was bringing them (Exodus 16:3). One thing I have been learning is that while it is good and right to spend time catching up with friends from back home, I need to make sure I have enough energy to make new connections where I am. While it is good and right to spend time being thankful for where I came from, I need to make sure I also spend time being thankful for where I am, and where God is bringing me.
Remember to look both inward and outward with faith
Having moved to a new place, eventually we’ll have to discern when is the time to move on to the next place. Or perhaps to move back home, if there is a particular place you call home. As we discern, we will ask questions of ourselves, such as “How am I doing?” and “Do I still want to be here?” These are good questions to ask, and will help surface important considerations, like housing price, proximity to loved ones, job prospects, opportunities for your family members, the weather, and so on.
However, as we discern, we ought to ask not just questions of ourselves, but also questions of God. Numbers 9:15-23 has been a helpful picture for me, God’s people moved when God called them to move, and stayed when God called them to stay. So it should be with us. In addition to asking “how am I doing?” I am learning to also ask “what is God doing?” This means asking what God is doing in me in this place, and what God is doing through me in this place. And in addition to asking “do I still want to be here?” I am also learning to ask “does God still want me to be here?” Considerations like housing and jobs prospects are really important, and they may well be part of how I discern where God wants me to be. But all these considerations must be subordinate to the ultimate consideration, which where God calls me to be.
So, to end, I would encourage you, as God has been encouraging me, to spend time with God in faith. Spend in His Word. Spend time in prayer. Spend time with His people. Keep in step with His Spirit. And trust that there is no better place for you to be, than exactly where God has called you to be. Wherever that may be. For however long it may be for. Till we are finally in our true home.