What brought you to the city or the community where you live now?
It’s a question I’ve been thinking about and talking about with others lately, and it’s interesting to consider.
For me, work led me to the city where I live. I would have gone anywhere in Scotland, but this was the opportunity that arose, and so I moved to a place where I knew no-one, hoping it would work out.
As for the community I live in, the reason was affordability and convenience. There was no sense of call or of God’s leading; it was a practical decision, and yet, as I look back and consider the question of why I am here, it seems that, on a deeper level, God was leading without me even realising.
I had been praying for a church community where I could belong, and five years ago I made the decision to join a new church plant in my area. I was hesitant and apprehensive, but as I considered the possibility, God stirred my heart for my community and I knew I had to be a part of it.
Five years on, God has answered my prayer in ways I’d never have expected. And as I imagine what the lockdowns of the past sixteen months would have been like in some of my previous living situations, I’m so grateful they happened when I was here!
I’ve noticed a similar theme in some of my conversations with others. They didn’t necessarily feel led by God, but in hindsight they can see that they were. There’s a woman who has moved around for years, running from a difficult past, until she came to our community, where she found Jesus and has decided to stay. There’s a family who had been about to leave for the other side of the world when their son got sick, and while they don’t feel called here long-term, it’s obvious how God is using them here in the meantime.
The more I think about it, the more I think that God places us where we need to be – whether short-term or long-term – to teach us or to use us in his work. Several years ago, I ended up living in a particular place for just under a year. It was not an easy time. The reason for going was an opportunity I had been promised which then failed to materialise, there were challenges I’d never have foreseen, and I didn’t feel like I belonged at all.
And yet, in that difficult year, God was powerfully at work – healing, transforming, bringing all kinds of things to the surface so I could deal with them. The thing that blows my mind is that there was someone else he brought to the same church at the same time. This man also came under difficult circumstances, obviously wounded from his previous church, and yet he was exactly the person I needed to teach me some of the lessons I needed to learn. Our past experiences meant that he understood aspects of me that no-one else did, and as someone older and wiser I was able to learn so much from him.
Neither of us particularly wanted to be there, and around a month after I left, he moved permanently to Australia. I may never see him again, but I’m convinced that those months when we found ourselves in the same place were not an accident!
We see it in Scripture too – God leading people to where they need to be.
Joseph finds himself in Egypt, through a series of difficult circumstances – but God uses him to save many people during a famine.
Esther “just happens” to find herself in the King’s palace – but later realises that she has been put there “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14) to stand up for the Jews and save them from their enemies.
Philip is directed by the Holy Spirit to travel down a desert road – only to find an Ethiopian eunuch trying to understand the book of Isaiah and needing someone to come alongside him to help. (Acts 8:26-40)
Paul plans to travel to the province of Bithynia, but he is prevented by the Holy Spirit and then has a vision, calling him to Macedonia. (Acts 16:6-10) He travels there to preach the Good News, and sees many come to faith!
We don’t always understand God’s leading. We don’t always see why he has led us to a certain place. Often we don’t feel like he has led us at all! We may have lived in the same place all our lives, or we may have moved several times.
But it’s encouraging to think that, whatever our reasons for living in the place we do, God is ultimately in charge of where we live. He has placed us where he can teach us and use us, and, wherever we find ourselves, he has a purpose for us in that place.
What about you? Did you sense God leading you to the place where you live? How have you seen him at work in your situation?