I may have an opportunity to take a new job and a significant promotion. But it would mean that we (wife, 4 year old, 2 year old, and me) would have to move about 1,000 miles from our extended families for no less than two to three years. Further, we love our church and our small group, and it’s very challenging to think about joining a new congregation and building new relationships. However, I think I can see God’s fingerprints all over the path that led us to this opportunity. How do we discern wisdom in this situation? How should we be praying? How do we know when to go, or stay, in faith?
Knowing when to move and when to stay is one of the great challenges for believers as we aim for faithful presence and gospel influence, and to raise our families in the context of Christian community.
Your opportunity opens a door for you and your spouse to refine your family mission and discernment skills. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to a deeply personal situation.
However, there is one essential characteristic and five scriptural questions that can help you discern the Spirit’s leading.
One Essential Characteristic
The essential characteristic that undergirds all guidance is godly humility, expressed as reverence and a continual desire for wisdom. Proverbs lays out essential facets of humility and the fear of the Lord that frame our obedience (Prov. 2:1–11; 3:3–9). As one mentor said to me four decades ago, “You will have many more crises of obedience than guidance.” As we obey God’s ways found in Scripture, our ability to sense the Spirit’s specific guidance is refined.
You will have many more crises of obedience than guidance.
It may help to ask yourselves five questions.
1. Is there a gospel-preaching church in your new city?
Unless you’re a church planter intending to start the gospel-preaching church, this one is imperative. You and your family need to be fed, encouraged, and challenged by a local congregation. You need to serve together (Heb. 10:24–25), to bring your tithes and offerings together (Mal. 3:8–10), to pray and break bread together (Acts 2:42). Your family needs a place to be taught (Acts 11:25–26), to participate in the ordinances (Matt. 28:19–20; 1 Cor. 11:17–34), and to grow in love (Eph. 4:14–16).
2. Is this opportunity consistent with my sense of calling as a kingdom ambassador and faithful worker?
Put another way: is my vocation as a disciple on mission, and my professional occupation, fruitfully reflected in this offer? It seems in your question that the answer is yes, so on to the next query.
3. Does this offer advance our shared mission as a couple and family?
In addition to husband and wife each having unique vocational and occupational arenas, God calls families to a shared mission. What values and visions do you and your wife have for flourishing together as you raise your family and seek the common good and expansion of God’s reign? Will she and your children flourish equally in the new situation?
4. Are we in unity as we pray about this?
This question goes a bit deeper. There is sacrifice and blessing in all divine assignments.
A few years ago, I turned down two significant job offers because my wife and I were not in harmony. She was not being obstinate—just the opposite. We had moved often in obedience to God’s leading. She simply did not have peace about the locale and timing, so it wasn’t hard for me to say, “No, thank you.”
It is also right to engage prayerful mentors and peers and listen to their insights.
5. Can the advancement represented by this opportunity be accomplished in other ways, including hybrid/remote working from your current locale, or is relocation strategically essential?
We often “have not because we ask not” of those recruiting us. In one institution I served, it was necessary for us to relocate nearer my wife’s family so she could help care for her ailing father. I assumed I needed another job and prepared four resumes. Then I went to the president and asked if I could live elsewhere and do my job in creative ways. He said yes, and I am still engaged with this organization.
I am confident God will lead you as you consider his ways and desire his glory as a family.