When You Feel Like You’re In Exile

“The Flight to Egypt” (detail) by Carl Spitzweg


It’s been nearly a year since my husband and I moved our two young daughters out of the only home and neighborhood they’d ever known. My belly was bulging with our third daughter in utero as I packed at least five boxes daily. (Was I nesting early?) The need to move was on the fore of our minds for about a year at the time, mostly because nearly all of Sarah’s specialists were out of town and my husband’s job was, too. The commute was grueling for all of us.

Still, I never thought I’d miss a small rural community, since I’d been raised a city gal. But the friendships we’d forged with our postmaster, local teller, and several neighbors were solid and steady. I couldn’t imagine starting over. But I knew it was time to pray—and pray hard.

One day in late January, I was taking a routine walk with my dog around town, and I just had this spontaneous tete-a-tete with God. “Lord,” I pleaded in desperation, “you know I don’t really want to move. I love our life here. It’s home now. But Ben is exhausted beyond measure, and I don’t want him to fall asleep at the wheel when he’s driving home because of it. Will you please help us move?”

Two weeks later, our house was on the market, and it sold in thirty-six hours. Six weeks after that, we were out of our house and into a new one—in the city of my childhood, ironically in the back of the neighborhood where I’d spent countless hours of leisure pondering love and life.

Though we’ve settled in for the most part, it still doesn’t feel like “home” yet to any of us. Ben and I were casually chatting about this the other evening, and he said, “Don’t you just feel like we’re in exile? We don’t belong in our old town, but we don’t really fit in here, either.”

Funny thing, but that was the perfect word to describe all of what I’d been trying to emotionally and spiritually process these long, lonely months: exile. As I mused on that word a bit more, I responded to him, “Maybe it’s like the early Apostles who were exiled. Maybe God has sent us into an unfamiliar mission field for a reason.”

You see, despite the fact that no one in my family has warm, fuzzy feelings about being here, Ben and I know with certainty that God intended for us to be in this place, here and now. Everything fell into place flawlessly after I raised my heart to Heaven that wintry afternoon on an ordinary walk. Even finding our home had been a minor miracle that had every Providential detail worked out ahead of time.

Sometimes God sends us away from what is familiar and comfortable in order to stretch us. If we are to become new creations, if we are to give Him our “yes” every day so that we can become something more, something better, then we have to be willing to let go of what we understand and see clearly.

Exile, though a distasteful concept, is much like a summoning into the deserts of our lives. The Israelites felt as if they were in exile all those decades of wandering in the desolate wasteland, eating manna from Heaven.

Like them, we are given a promise. We don’t always see what God is doing in our lives, but we know He makes “all things work together for good.” So even the painful pruning is for our benefit and, ultimately, for His glory and honor.

Maybe you feel like you’re in exile, too. Maybe you’re in a place in your life where everything seems desolate, lonely, and going nowhere. If so, be assured that God is preparing you for something greater than where you are now, in this holding pattern. He has big plans for your life, so place all your trust in His sovereignty.

Text (c) Jeannie Ewing 2018, all rights reserved.


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