If you’ve ever relocated, you know how the experience dislocates us from past routines, identities, and spiritual practices. We humans are creatures of habit and community. As we establish patterns of life, the longer we do them, the deeper grows the groove, thereby normalizing the practice. Likewise, the longer we’re in fellowship with a group of people, the more we feel part of that “tribe.”
Establishing a daily time with the Lord, the custom of weekly church attendance, or a regular workout occurs most readily if we follow the same habits, rituals, and locations. Soon we find these experiences become a natural part of our lives. We feel at home, and, thus, we’re more likely to continue what is now familiar.
Relocating, especially cross country or overseas, tears up everything.
Your job is new. Your role in church is gone. In fact, you have no church. Your friends are far away. Your circle of coworkers and colleagues is not present. Your city is new. Your usual place to sit quietly and meet with God is far removed. Your lifestyle has changed. Your doctors aren’t present. Your new grocery store must be found, your new pharmacy sought and prescriptions moved.
All that is familiar is far behind you. Nothing is the same but you, and you’re no longer sure who you are in this new place without your regular props. As you establish new practices, you often find you’ve gone a few days without doing what used to be routine. I discovered today that I can’t recall if we’ve prayed before any meals in the two months since we arrived, a regular occurrence in our lives for over forty years. That shocked me. What does that say about our hearts? Mindfulness of my blessings and what is necessary and profitable each day is needed.
When we relocate, we may feel invisible, as if even God himself is nowhere near. Like the Israelites of old, we may believe that God does not see us. “Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God'” (Isaiah 40:27 NIV)?
The Israelites felt this in their Babylonian captivity, far removed from home and forcefully and violently relocated to a foreign land. Even during a relocation we chose from one side of our country to another, we also can feel that our way is hidden, that God doesn’t see us. But feeling is not fact.
No, our way is not hidden. God is a God who sees. He is the anchor.
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom” (Isaiah 40:28 NIV).
Having been studying through Isaiah for about a year now, I “just happened” to be on these passages right now as I’m dissecting the sensations of dislocation that still remain. Clearly, my way is not hidden from God! He knew I would need this reassurance right now in this new place, far from all that is familiar.
The Creator of the earth is even at the farthest ends of the earth, even where I now live, even in this city filled with millions of people where I know only a few living souls. No matter how far I’ve gone, he is still there. He understands us in our new surroundings and sees us just as clearly as ever. He never sleeps or grows weary of watching and caring for us, even when we forget to pray at meals.
He understands, even if no one else does. So do not be dismayed. Hope in the Lord. He is with you even to the end of your days and beyond for all eternity.
“He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”
Isaiah 40:29-31 NIV