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The urge to leave

I wrote about coping with loss yesterday. No one likes losing (unless it's weight), but loss does have an upside. Once you've lost something, it doesn't have the grip on you it had. So in a way, your freedom has increased. People frequently email me describing the crossroads they a…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

I wrote about coping with loss yesterday. No one likes losing (unless it's weight), but loss does have an upside. Once you've lost something, it doesn't have the grip on you it had. So in a way, your freedom has increased.

People frequently email me describing the crossroads they are at as they consider the tradeoff between this freedom and the loss they'll experience. Leave a relationship? Leave a town you've called home? Leave the things that have defined you that seem tired and shopworn?

The urge to leave can be God whispering to you, "Get out of this place, it's bad for your soul." Or it may be God saying, "There's a better place for you out there – go discover it."

Or, it may be your own brokenness crying out for relief in a place where commitment and endurance are needed.

Given that commitment issues seem to be standard equipment for a lot of young people, the default response by some boomers to their children is often "Hey, just stick it out." As a young person, how do you tell the difference?

I recommend asking a few diagnostic questions that may help:

  • Have you made a commitment that you know you need to keep?
  • Are you in a rut that leaves you regularly feeling discouraged?
  • Are you feeling called to something that will require you to leave?
  • Are you in a season of life that is hard and requires perseverance?

These days many young people have fewer options than in the past. They find themselves stuck in places that dumb them down. Places that have more to do with survival than with fulfiling their life call. "Is life as a barista really my destiny?" You may be asking.

If you're a 20-something who is feeling stuck, if your grip on identity is uncertain, if you've never wrestled with foundational kingdom issues, you need to consider that the restlessness you feel may be God whispering to you. And he may be whispering this, "My child, you are so much more than the world knows. You are an undiscovered treasure. The rut you're in does not need to define you."

In America, we have the luxury of prioritizing fundamental identity issues before we prioritize basic survival needs. We can always stay for a while at a friend's house. There is food and comfort there. In America we have a basic social safety net protecting us if we fall – no one starves like they do in other countries. The penalties for failure are so small in comparison for the penalties of staying in a rut that you know you weren't made for.

We need to understand the freedoms we have and listen to the urge to leave. It may well be God whispering, "there's more."

Comments (11)

  • Beautifully said, Seth! Beautifully said! Ah! You “get” our generation OH so well! And you know the heart of the Father that wants us to run lavishing ourselves in his goodness & purpose & love — glittering the world with his radiance & truth, in a life fulfilled and lived well.

  • Good word Seth. I love the photo, I know exactly where that’s at because I was there! I hope that ministry is going well, the mountains were incredible there in Kanchanaburi. It’s scary for some people to leave familiar and embrace a chance to see what God may teach through “tougher avenues” and then come out realizing that there was more, but it’s worth it.

  • Thanks for the post, Seth!
    After coming back from the WR it took me almost a full year to get over the itch to leave the place I was in ’bout every 3-6 weeks. I had gotten in the habit of quick transitions and fast movements. It was almost like the few steps a marathon runner takes after he has finished…learning how to slow down.
    However, a desire to “leave” all the time is deeply embedded in me. I have been in the same place now for 5 years and am incredibly content and constantly growing. Yet, I know this season is temporary. The question I am always wrestling with is…when is the right time to leave?
    Hard things to wrestle over.

  • This is not just an issue 20 somethings deal with. These diagnostic questions are beneficial whatever our age.

  • There is a place of holy discontent we are often called to. God is interested in our character more than our comfort. Most people refuse to believe that.

  • Thanks Seth really helpful.

    I have found the voices I hear most from Christians is “tough it out” and “be content where you are”. They seem to view restlessness and discontent as a manifestion of at best immaturity or worse sin.

    They fail to see the wildness of God as revealed in His word and in nature. I fear we view these things through American evangelical glasses where safe, clean, nice, and passive are more desirable than courage, adventure, and faith.

    Could it be that being made in His image might mean we share His “wildness” as well?

  • Thanks Seth. I always appreciate your perspective on that sense of restlessness.

    Tim, good words for me and my family at the moment, thanks.

  • Funny, because I’ve been wrestling with that exact question for some time now. Been trying to find a way out of Starbucks, but just can’t seem to get out.

    As much as I want to just quit, I’ve never had peace about that either. So I’m still sticking it out, while also working toward becoming an EMT. It’s just taking a whole lot longer than I want it to.

  • Kim I understand where you are having been there several times myself. I would encourage you to read “Quitter” by Jon Acuff if you have not already done so. He has some great godly wisdom that will guide you through the waiting.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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