On April 1 of this year (2024), we celebrated three years since we uprooted our whole family – five children, a Grammy, and a dog named Kai – during the Covid-19 pandemic from Southern California and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. 

As many of our friends were leaving California to save money, some wondered why we would move our large family even further into the heart of one of the most expensive places on earth. There were several factors. 

 Many of my wife’s family members lived in the area. There would be more freelancing opportunities for me without the soul-crushing 3-4 hour commutes I was accustomed to. We also wanted to downsize our space and live in a more urban area. 

 But the most compelling reason was that we simply felt like God was telling us to move to the Bay Area. In fact, things fell into place so quickly and easily that we were officially moved into our new home only 3 months from the day we first entertained the idea! 

Then the trouble started.

A much-needed job opportunity fell through. Our youngest child became severely asthmatic, beginning a long streak of monthly hospital visits. Our close friends who planned to come with us suddenly changed their plans and stayed in SoCal. Our new home needed serious repairs and remodeling. 

 Did I mention all of this was happening during a world-wide pandemic?!

 For the entire first year, I woke up every day anxiously praying, “God, are you sure we were supposed to do this?

 Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you simply did not know what to do next, where you were overwhelmed and the path forward was unclear? What did you do? 

Here were some of my unhealthy responses: 

 Panic. I spent most of my days frantically searching for work opportunities, worried I wouldn’t be able to find a sustainable income before our savings ran out. 

 Overthinking. I obsessively devised different plans, read different books, watched different video courses, outlined different strategies and tried to scheme my way to a more secure future. 

Impulsivity. After spending too much time overthinking and strategizing, I often jumped into commitments I couldn’t keep or purchased things I didn’t need just so I felt like I was accomplishing something. 

Escapism. When I couldn’t solve a problem immediately, I procrastinated by zoning out on Youtube and social media to alleviate the stress. 

 Isolation. The more stressed I became, the less I wanted to be around people. It felt like too much work to keep up appearances.

 These days, you don’t have to uproot your family and move hundreds of miles away to find yourself overcome by stress and anxiety. 

 In our post-Covid world of cultural upheaval and political division, I think it’s safe to assume everyone has been living with some level of anxiety and uncertainty. 

 And, just like moving to a new area, many people find themselves and their families trying to navigate a new, unfamiliar landscape.

What do you do when the decision isn’t clear, when plans fall apart, when you are feeling overwhelmed, defeated, or anxious about the future? 

 Luckily, if you are a Jesus-follower, you have an ace in the hole. 


The Leading of the Spirit

One of the most overlooked characters in God’s story is God’s Spirit, also called the Holy Spirit. 

 Though there are many vague and mysterious references in the Old Testament, Jesus puts the Holy Spirit front-and-center in the New Testament, declaring Him as the primary agent in God’s work of new creation.

 In fact, Jesus was so excited about the role of the Holy Spirit, He even told His disciples it was better for Him to leave earth just so He could send the Spirit to them (Jn 16:7). 

 So, who is the Holy Spirit? Without getting too complicated, the Holy Spirit is the manifestation of the life of God dwelling in us, connecting us to the Father, mentoring us in the Way of Jesus, and empowering us to represent God in the world (See Jn 3:5, 16:14, Rom 8:11,16, 26). 

 This means, through the Holy Spirit, we have access to unlimited wisdom, guidance, power, and provision in real time. All we need to do is ask. (See Matt 7:7-11, Eph 1:3). 

 But what does it look like practically to tap into the guidance of the Holy Spirit in a way that helps us confidently move into the unknown? Here are three helpful practices. 


Spend time listening to God through the Bible. 

The Bible is more than just a collection of stories and teachings – it’s alive (See Heb 4:12). This means, whether you are using a devotional reading plan or just meditating on the verse of the day in the Bible app, God can speak to you!

This is what I call “Bible listening”, and it’s a little different from “Bible study”. While Bible study helps us understand what Scripture means in principle, Bible listening helps us hear what God is saying to us personally about how to apply those principles in our present lives. 

How do you know whether or not to marry that person, take that job, move to that place, or parent your children this way or that way? This is where we need the Holy Spirit to apply the principles of God’s word to our lives in specific ways – not only in the big things, but in the small things as well.

Sound too confusing or mysterious? Here’s a shortcut: Just look at Jesus, the Word of God in the flesh. The Bible tells us that Jesus is the primary lens through which we can understand God and Scripture (See Luke 24:27; Hebrews 1:1-3). 

This is why I make sure to spend some time everyday reading the gospels, so the Holy Spirit can speak to me through both Scripture and the example of Jesus. Then I can simply ask myself, “What would Jesus say to me about this right now? What would Jesus do if He were in this situation?” 


Reflect in community

 You might be thinking at this point, hearing God can be risky – and you’re right! Even with the Holy Spirit onboard, we will not hear God perfectly because we will always struggle to filter out other voices or even our own biases.

 But fear not! The Holy Spirit is not only in you, He also lives in every Jesus-follower around you. And when you filter what you hear through the different perspectives, experiences, and giftings of other believers you trust, you are much more likely to hear the Spirit accurately (See Acts 15:28-29). 

This is partly why we were not afraid to make such a bold move to the Bay Area. God had already been speaking to other believers in our lives about it and, as we shared what God had put on our heart, they were able to confirm His word to us in miraculous ways.

For instance, one couple told us they felt like God was getting ready to move us somewhere else two months before we heard from God, reporting that as they prayed for us they kept seeing a picture of the San Francisco Bay Bridge in their minds. Wow! 

Ultimately, God will confirm what He is telling you – not just through signs, wonders, pictures, or an inward peace, but through His people. 

Make a simple, doable plan in response

It’s a wonderful thing to have an intimate encounter with God, to feel seen and heard by Him, gaining clarity and perspective for your life. But hearing God is not enough. 

Jesus’ brother, James, warns us, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). 

In other words, once we have clarified what God is saying to us in His word, we won’t be able to truly believe it deep down until we have tried to live it out. 

This is why Jesus said: “Whoever comes to Me, hears My words, and puts them into practice is like the wise person who built their house on the solid rock” (Luke 6:47). 

To put His words into practice, we need to answer the questions, “Where, When, and How?”

For example, if you sense God wants you to spend more time with Him, where are the places and spaces you might connect with Him? How often? What day or time this week might work?

If you sense He wants you to step out in faith and begin a project, when will you start? How will you include God in the planning process? Where will you work on it? Who might help you or keep you accountable? 

If you sense He wants you to reach out and share your faith or disciple someone, when will you contact them? Where should you meet up with them? How might you start the conversation? 

So often we feel like we need to attempt big things in order to experience the power of the Spirit, but I’ve often found God’s Spirit meets me as I take simple steps of obedience in the small things. 


Following the Spirit into the Wilderness 

As my opening story illustrates, following the Holy Spirit does make things clearer, but not always easier. 

Three years later, I am happy to report we are doing great. We have a stable income, a supportive community, our son is healed from his asthma, the house is much more liveable, and God has given us an amazing vision for our ministry here. 

But like me, you might wonder why all this breakthrough had to come with so much struggle and heartache. And what I’ve learned is that God not only works for our safety and security, but also for our character and our lives to be more Jesus-shaped (See Rom 8:28-29). 

And even for Jesus, following the Holy Spirit meant descending into the wilderness of temptation, where His identity and His faith was tested (See Luke 4:1-12). 

In other words, if things appear to be going badly while you are trying to obey God, it doesn’t mean God is angry or you are doing something wrong. It means God may be refining your faith. 

This is why James said, “Count it all joy when you find yourself in various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patient endurance” (James 1:2-3). After all, Jesus doesn’t promise a life without pain and suffering, but He does promise He will be with us in the pain and suffering and will redeem it into something beautiful. 

If the pandemic showed us anything it is that, despite all our progress and scientific achievements, the world can still be a scary and unpredictable place. 

But there is one thing we can always be certain of: Jesus is alive, He loves us, and His Spirit is with us. And no matter what happens, we are safe in the will of God. 

I don’t know about you, but that gives me a ton of confidence!


Reflection Questions:

  1. What is causing stress or anxiety in your life right now? If Jesus were standing beside you, what might He say to you about that? 
  2. Do you feel any resistance or caution around the idea of “hearing” God? What are some ways you have experienced God’s guidance in your life? 
  3. What’s the last thing God showed you? Have you done anything about it yet? Why or why not?

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