When Your Spouse Wants to Go to the Nations, But You Don’t - Radical

When Your Spouse Wants to Go to the Nations, But You Don’t

I stood up and dramatically slid my index finger across my neck in an attempt to silently communicate my disagreement. I did not want to discourage the pastor on our computer screen, telling us about an opportunity to serve in the Middle East. But I did not want my husband confused about my unwillingness to go.

I was firmly against moving our young family to an unfamiliar and uncomfortable part of the world, no matter how “unprecedented” and “unique” they called the opportunity. As the conversation continued, I could feel my husband’s interest climbing, outpaced only by my fear.

What happens when your spouse wants to go to the nations, but you don’t?

This is the situation in which I found myself in early 2012. An Arab sheikh on the Arabian Peninsula granted a plot of land for Christians to build a church building, and my husband was offered the chance to steward the opportunity. I cried fearful tears that winter night as I held my 8-week-old, convinced God would never ask us to go there.

We were comfortable, had good friends, were doing good work, and had a good life––and I saw these as gifts from the Lord for us to enjoy.

When You Should Go

We were involved in fruitful ministry where we were, and I saw that as a strong reason to stay. We were in a healthy church that I imagined raising our children in, and I argued we would be crazy to leave it. We were comfortable, had good friends, were doing good work, and had a good life––and I saw these as gifts from the Lord for us to enjoy. I read passages like those in Acts 13 where the church set aside some members to be sent out for the missionary task, and I was thankful that other people were willing to go to hard places

Over the next few months though, God chipped away at my stubborn heart and redirected my desires away from myself and toward him. He sovereignly ordained conversations that made me realize that I was seeking comfort instead of seeking how to best steward our gifts for God’s glory. I was confronted with the fact that God’s heart was for the nations, and my heart was for my own comfort.

Sometimes when our first instinct is to say no, we eventually find that the problem lies squarely and solely within ourselves. If you are wrestling over different desires than your spouse, it is worth examining your own heart. Ask yourself questions like: 

  • Are the reasons I want to stay aligned with God’s love for all the nations? 
  • Does the Bible speak to my underlying reasons for not wanting to go? 
  • Do other godly people, who know me well, challenge my reasons for not wanting to go? 
  • How do I reconcile the Great Commission’s command to go with my desire to stay?

God’s heart was for the nations, and my heart was for my own comfort.

When You Shouldn’t Go

God often uses the circumstances of a spouse or child to direct an entire family unit. Think of men who have stepped away from pastoral ministry to care for a sick wife. The wife’s illness was not a mistake or an inconvenience to God’s plan. Rather, God’s sovereign plan was fulfilled as he cared for the wife God gave him. 

Examples are numerous, both in private life and in recorded missionary biographies, of family circumstances that altered the direction of ministry plans. When we entrust our lives to a good and sovereign God, we trust he works through all means under his control. “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” (Proverbs 16:33). 

Nothing happens by chance or apart from God’s sovereign hand. As you name the reasons to not go to the nations, consider whether God is directing your family through your circumstances.

  • Are there circumstances or situations in this season of your life that make going to the nations unwise?
  • Has God placed a limitation in your life that would prevent you from going?
  • Do you see circumstances or limitations that your spouse isn’t currently noticing?
  • Does your lack of desire to go to the nations extend beyond a mere preference or comfort?

Remember to Proceed with Caution

Obedience to the Great Commission is both urgent and requires careful attention and planning. In my own situation, my husband Josh wisely noted my apprehension about moving to the Middle East with our young family. He took my concerns seriously and deliberated over each of them. He walked us through the decision-making process slowly, patiently asking the Lord to redirect my desires. And the Lord answered his prayers for me. 

For the past 11 years, we have served overseas. The land that was granted to build a church is now home to a growing congregation, and I am grateful to have had a front-row seat to what God is doing in this part of his world.

If you find yourself in the same place I was 11 years ago, carefully consider the reasons you do not want to go, checking them with Scripture and other mature believers. Pray for your desires and keep an open mind, remembering God may be opening a door for you in an unexpected place.

A thousand different scenarios could have kept us where we were, but the Lord removed the obstacles in our way and cleared our path. At the intersection of prudence, patience, and persistence, we found a green light to go. And the infant I feared moving to the Middle East now happily calls it home.

Jenny Manley

Jenny Manley lives on the Arabian Peninsula, where she serves in an international evangelical church with her husband, Josh, and their five children. Previously, she served as a chief of staff in the U.S. Senate. Helping women from all over the world study Scripture in a Christ-exalting way is one of her greatest joys. She is the author of the new book The Good Portion: The Doctrine of Christ for Every Woman (Christian Focus, 2020).


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