Before deciding to publish a ministry blog, I sat down and wrote out some guidelines for myself. I didn’t want the blog to digress into a bunch of worthless words, nor to resemble a Twitter post: “Today, I ate sushi at China Palace; please like if you love sushi.” My desire was to take my experiences on the mission field and share the lessons God teaches me for the edification of others. If these stories and lessons encourage and help strengthen other faithful servants of God, then all praise be to the Lord! That is my prayer.
With that being said, today I write on a topic that could easily be viewed as seeking pity for my family and me. We are not looking for pity — we knew this was coming. We read the books, listened to others talk about their experiences, and realized that “there is nothing new under the sun.” What am I talking about? The feelings of being homesick.
According to the “professionals,” homesickness is “an emotional state of mind, where the affected person experiences intense feelings of longing due to separation from the home environment and loved ones. The feelings that are most identified with homesickness are grief, depression, anxiety, anger, and withdrawal.” Now, I’m not saying that we identify with every emotion in the above definition, but I do know this, as the adrenaline-rush of the ‘new’ is wearing off, the reality of the ‘new’ is sinking in.
For most people, change is okay in small amounts; but when change comes quickly and drastically, it plays with your emotions. One moment, every new experience is an awesome adventure — and, then, two minutes later, “I don’t like this; I want to go home!” You can attempt to hide or suppress these feelings, but inside there is a struggle to be content “in whatsoever state I am.”
As my family and I navigate through this sea of emotions and changes, we are thankful for God’s gracious hand guiding us. He is patient to teach us even when we don’t want to be taught, He is uplifting when our thoughts begin to slide downwards, and His presence comforts our heart during those times when we struggle to accept the changes and differences of life in Fiji. Truly, He is our “help in time of need.”
In an effort to encourage others who are experiencing the feelings of homesickness, and to aid those who will experience it in the future, there are several things of which the Lord has reminded me:
Being homesick is not a sin. The devil likes to use your emotions to beat you up — “A stronger Christian would not feel this way; you’re being self-centered and ungrateful:” and on and on he goes. But homesickness really isn’t about home. Yes, Fiji is different from America and it lacks some comforts that we’re accustomed to, but it’s more about the relationships and routines. We take a lot of comfort in being around those that we know and love and, as for our routines, well, they bring a sense of security and control. Missing those things are not wrong — in fact, it’s called being normal! I take comfort in knowing that other servants of the Lord experienced times of homesickness (II Samuel 23:15; Philippians 1:8; I Thessalonians 2:17-18; II Timothy 1:4); it leads me to study their response to times of homesickness.
Don’t allow homesickness to cause you to second-guess God’s will. Emotions are not wise counselors. God’s calling does not change just because you feel alone or out of place. Sadly, many servants of the Lord have quit because they have allowed difficult changes to drastically change their view of God’s will. Enduring hardships, leaving the known for the unknown and saying “goodbye” to loved ones is a part of the ministry. Following in steps of our Saviour demands sacrifice (remember He left Heaven to come to this earth) and, once we take that first step, nothing should cause us to turn back—not even our emotional state of mind. The counsel of II Corinthians 10:5 is important to remember when dealing with homesickness, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” Life will not be better outside of God’s will! “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”
Address your homesickness scripturally and practically. Denying it or hiding it doesn’t fix anything! As a family, we recognize what’s happening and, as you can see, I’m being very transparent with you. Here are a few things that we have committed to do — and they are helping us through the beginnings of this process.
Pray often. A good outcome of homesickness is the renewed passion to pray! Knowing that God understands and that He is there to help lift up your troubled heart provides strength to face the new challenges and demands.
Let the tears flow. Sometimes you need that emotional release. When your emotions build up, it can lead to bitterness, resentment, and an overall unhappiness in life. Cry to the Lord and cry before the Lord.
Make new friends. Isolation only creates an environment for discontentment and self-pity to grow. Connecting with new people forces you to invest and the investment pays off. Personally, I do better emotionally when I am around people and involved in serving people.
Stay connected. Technology is a gift from God (if used properly). Calling family and friends, writing emails, looking at pictures, reminiscing about past events … these all help in keeping you emotionally healthy and balanced. Communication opens the door for beneficial companionship.
Don’t forget to laugh. Laughing at the funny moments of life opens the door for a beneficial medicine to flow into a stressed or overwhelmed heart. Not everything is to be taken so seriously!
Like David, during moments of homesickness, I ask myself: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me?” and I am reminded “hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” Feelings are real, but so are the mercies of God and every morning they await us.