One spring, I transplanted a hydrangea. It was a last-minute decision, and the attempt involved my digging a hole in one dirt patch, then extracting the plant from another dirt patch in the fifteen minutes I had until my husband came home for dinner. One of my mistakes was trying to take the entire root system with the plant; the root ball was so large that it fell apart as I dragged it across the lawn, endangering the bush’s life. In trying to take everything, I learned that it’s safer for the plant and for the gardener to take less. To transplant a big bush, you have to cut off some of the roots in order to get the plant to the new location intact. Deracinating—losing roots—is part of moving.
When people move, our roots also have to be cut. We need to let go of places, things, and even relationships with people in order to get to our new location in one piece. This is painful. We call this transplanting pain “homesickness.” Missing “home” and family are common causes, but a host of other things can contribute: customs, food, language, climate, and so on, can all aggravate the feeling of being displaced.
If you, like so many around this world, have been uprooted from your home and community, you may be facing temptations to discouragement, self-pity, or frustration as you are forced to let go of the known and put out roots into the unknown. Here are some biblical truths that can help homesick hearts.
Though we may be taken aback by a move, God is not. He planned this for us. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says that He “govern[s] all his creatures, and all their actions” (Q&A 16). That means that God not only led you to this new place, but He also cares for and directs you here. “If you have faith in Christ,” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “you will not resent the fact that life is a pilgrimage, but will rather rejoice that it is so, because you will know that the pilgrimage is but a part of your exodus … from Egypt into Canaan.”
For me, one of the hard things about moving is not idealizing the “old place.” This was especially difficult when we moved from the Scottish Highlands to a small town in the American Midwest. There, the only castle was White Castle. The only topography was a ditch. What an awful move, I thought.
But meditating on Christ’s incarnation gave my move perspective. Of all the people who have ever moved, Christ went from the greater to the unspeakably lesser, with no place to lay His head (Matt. 8:20). “Thrones for a manger didst surrender, Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor,” the hymn says. Christ willingly made that move for our salvation; He can help us be faithful in our little relocations.
Prayer is essential. Pray with thanks that the Lord has brought you to this place, and acknowledge His leading and providential care for you. Pour out your anxieties and griefs to Him—He has been tempted in every way as you have, and He remembers your frame. He knows that you are dust. Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). Pray that you would be fruitful where you are, and ask God to bless you in your new location.
The church is a big part of God’s answer for our struggles. Find a local, bible-believing, and gospel-preaching church to join, and do it quickly—before you move, ideally. The church is the body of Christ, and if you are not connected to it, you will suffer. You need the preached Word, the ministry of the sacraments, and the fellowship of other believers to feed your soul. Without them, you will shrivel up, even with private Scripture reading and prayer during the week. Neglecting the local church will also likely turn you in on yourself. It is easy to feel sorry for yourself when you are homesick and do not really know anyone else. Being plugged in to a congregation puts your situation into perspective as you see other believers fight cancer, suffer in a hard marriage, and walk through their unique trials.
My hydrangea survived, rescued by my husband. The plant went from sticking up in an awkward spot to settling in beside the front door. But we had not uprooted it for nothing. It experienced growth and produced beauty in its new location.
For the Christian, moving can be more than boxes, sweat, and tears. If we are in the Word, prayer, and healthy fellowship, then moving can be a time of spiritual growth. Instead of being torn apart by the experience, we can have hearts that become more tender toward the God who relocated us. God only transplants His people so that they can grow deeper in Him and bear more fruit. The habits and principles we have discussed are vital to ordinary Christian life; how much more when we have been uprooted and need a regrounding in Scripture’s precious truths?