Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped.
So often, married life feels like little more than a series of decisions: Should we buy that house? Is it the right time to start a family? Do we need to save more money for the future? So often, we look to God for some kind of clear answer telling us just what to do.
Early in our marriage, my husband began looking for a job closer to our home. He happened upon a job opening at a social service agency just a few blocks from our apartment. Not only was the job close, but it was the kind of work he was passionate about at the kind of organization he’d wanted to work for. The company was even willing to let him work flexible hours so he could be home with our baby part of the day.
My husband sailed through his interview and was offered the job right away. Before he said yes, we talked briefly about the wisdom of taking the job. As we reviewed the circumstances it seemed that God had dropped this opportunity in his lap. We didn’t need to discuss the issue for long. We felt God’s leading very clearly.
While wandering through the wilderness, the people of Israel knew when to move and when to stay put because God gave them a sign: if the cloud that covered the tabernacle stayed put, they were to do likewise; when the cloud moved, they were to move. In our situation, we felt that the “cloud” had moved, and that my husband should take the job.
But we don’t always get a clear sign from God. There have been many, many times when we have prayed, sought the advice of friends and family, and waited for God to point us in the right direction, only to get . . . nothing. For example, when I was trying to decide whether I should quit my job, I agonized for months with no sense of what God wanted me to do. Where was our sign?
The truth is, God doesn’t always move the clouds to show us which way to go. Instead, God asks us to be faithful, to make choices with our lives that honor him. He asks us to get our priorities in order, to turn away from worldly standards of success and achievement and to bend our will to that of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And as we follow his example, walking in his ways, we begin to think more like him. Paul tells us in Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
We will make our share of mistakes in life decisions. At times, we will undoubtedly go when we should stay and stay when we should go. But the promise that God gives us is that no matter where we go—to a new state, to a new job, to a new stage of family life—our God goes with us.