In Times Of Trouble

Last March we announced that we were moving to LA. Greg had accepted a job as an Executive Pastor at a church in downtown LA and that meant we could move to the city we love and be close to family and friends. When dreams come true it’s a strange thing. There are inevitably subconscious expectations about the details of how the dream will unfold. Maybe for some these are all carried out exactly as planned but that is not what happened for us. A few weeks before we moved from Lansing, MI to Los Angeles, CA Greg got a call from the church saying that they no longer wanted him to come work there. The Senior Pastor had unexpectedly resigned and since, in their view, they hired Greg to work with the Senior Pastor they no longer needed Greg.

There are many kinds of shock and grief. While I know there are worse things that can happen to a person, this is by far the worst that has happened to us. At least, that is what the cold tingling feeling that replaced my ability to breathe told me. I will never forget the tears that streamed down my husband’s face as he told me what had happened. “I’m so sorry,” he sobbed over and over again as if somehow he had let me down. Needless to say this is not how we imagined our dream unfolding.

Our house was mostly packed and for sale. Every time I looked out our front window I was confronted with the POD that was ready for all our stuff. The day before we received the news we stood on the platform at our church where our pastor and the elders gathered around us and prayed for us as they announced we were moving to LA. There was no job, no home, no way to stay. In our hearts we were already moved on to what we believed God called us to. And yet.

The painful question was like too many weighted blankets burying both of us: should we stay?

Over the next week we prayed. One by one we told those closest to us. We asked their advice and for their prayers for wisdom. Not one person said we should stay. I thank God for His kindness that, even in the midst of what felt like a confused snow globe being shaken and turned upside down, there was clarity. Their advice confirmed how we felt God leading so we decided to proceed with the move. The next few weeks were filled with painful moments of telling our community we were moving to LA without the promise of a church family or Greg’s job. We did not set out to tell everyone. At the beginning we wanted to guard our secret as closely as possible. But with each person who asked we felt compelled to be honest about what God was allowing in our lives. This culminated in our final night with our students. They brought us up to have time for people to ask us questions and tell us how God had worked in their lives during our time with them. The first question was along the lines of what we were most looking forward to at our new church. Greg looked at me and we both knew we had to tell the truth. In a few sentences he explained why we actually would not be going to the church in LA but that we were still moving. I braced for embarrassment but what came was encouragement. One by one the students and leaders voiced their prayers and well-wishes to us as we followed God’s leading.

It is not lost on me that all of this was playing out in front of our church family, in particular the students we had been leading for the past five years. We often forget that God’s sovereignty is not just about our own good but also the good of others. Our communities witness our triumphs and tragedies. We do not fail or flourish in a bubble. As humbling as it may be that is our true strength. “When I am weak, I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

Though Greg has made it pretty far in a few pastor job searches in the past 6 months he still hasn’t found one. Truthfully with each potential job we are hopeful and become invested and are disappointed when they don’t work out. Acceptance and surrender are moment by moment gifts that we sometimes receive and often give back. But we know,

“God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”
(Psalms 46:1-3)

We are still in the middle of our story; in the middle of this strange season. Many days we don’t know which way is up. But God does. So we keep taking it one breath, one moment, one prayer at a time.