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Should I pursue my career or care for Dad?

Am I lacking the faith that God, who provided me with this job opportunity will also provide me with the ability to care for my dad as he needs it?


I’m stuck in a predicament. For the past four years I’ve been in the application process for a special agent position in federal law enforcement. Suffice to say, it’s an exciting, stable, well paying career that is well suited for someone who’s always been as straight-laced as myself (I am as square as a block of wood; I kid you not). When I was laid off from my previous job in December, my recruiter contacted me the day after about proceeding in the hiring process, and it looked as though God were providing.

However, four years ago, my mother died, and my father has been suffering with a lot of grief and depression. Almost two years ago, he had an accident, giving him a brain injury. He’s recovered mostly, but he can’t drive because of vision difficulties.

Now that I’m about to receive the job offer, I’m worried about leaving my dad. Accepting the federal job offer requires me to be willing to relocate anywhere in the U.S.

I’ve found some other jobs closer to home. Their tradeoff is that they lack the excitement, job security and sense of purpose of the law enforcement position. Also, I’d be scraping by financially, and they have very little capacity for advancement.

I don’t know what to do. Everyone tells me to take the special agent position. It’s such an amazing opportunity. In some ways, it’s an opportunity I’ve been waiting for my whole life. It doesn’t hurt that I’m currently unemployed, and I don’t exactly have any other offers coming soon.

I’m afraid that I’ll dishonor my father and God by leaving. In 1 Timothy, God exhorts us to take care of our widowed parents, and that those who refuse to do so are worse than unbelievers. My father is financially well-off, and he has since moved back to his rural hometown where he can walk to all his errands and other relatives live nearby. Furthermore, since my mom’s death, my dad has struggled with dependency issues. Namely, he refuses to do anything other than sit alone in his house feeling sorry for himself, and his injury worsened the situation. He hardly exerts any effort to make a recovery.

How do I honor God? If I turn down the special agent position, am I throwing away a God-given opportunity and crippling my future? Would I also be enabling my father, allowing him to continue in his pattern of not attempting anything on his own? I could be stationed close to him either after basic agent training or a few years later via a transfer. Am I lacking the faith that God, who provided me with this job opportunity will also provide me with the ability to care for my dad as he needs it?

On the other hand, if I accept the position, am I abandoning my father to his grief? Doesn’t caring for our parents mean emotionally as well as physically? Am I lacking faith that God would provide for my finances in a position closer to home? I would appreciate any insight because whatever I resolve to do appears to be a mistake.


The biblical admonition to care for widowed parents is given primarily for the benefit of women, not men, written in a day when wives (and mothers) were typically dependent upon their husbands to provide for them. The idea is that immediate or extended family would make sure that mom was taken care of in the absence of her husband. I imagine its primary purpose was not therapeutic, but rather food, shelter, clothing and protection.

Now, I certainly think that would apply to a widower (father) in the case of his being incapacitated and unable to care for himself (which I’ll discuss later about your dad), and I admire you for wrestling over your predicament. Your dad should be proud he has a son who puts his dad in the equation of his own future.

First and most importantly, let’s pull back, way back, from the immediate circumstances and take a look and see if we can get a clearer picture of what is happening here, and do a little “Will-of-God 101.”

We’re far enough back now to look at this from God’s view. Here He has a child of His (that’s you) who loves Him and who is doing all he can to hear and follow Him. He (the Triune God) has a perfect plan for this child and is aggressively acting to bring it about and relentlessly pursuing this child to reveal more of who He is. In order to accomplish this, God is carefully crafting circumstances as catalysts to bring His child to amazing discoveries of His character and nature. All circumstances ultimately have this goal in mind because God knows that only in knowing Him is the child really happy, excited and satisfied.

There are many “exciting” jobs and adventures out there for us to have, but all pale in comparison to knowing intimately the One who invented excitement. That’s not to say this job isn’t for you; I’m only making the point that nothing is more miserable than having an exciting job that is out of the will of God, and nothing is more satisfying than following God somewhere on a path we might not have chosen and discovering He had purpose in it. If we follow God we never, never need to worry about being fulfilled in what we’re doing.

So what we discover from this panoramic view is that your “predicament” is not about you or your dad, but about discovering the character and nature of God. That’s our starting point and applicable to both you and your dad and to all of us.

Now, to your situation specifically. From what I can tell (and I obviously don’t know every detail) your dad’s biggest problem is his (spiritual) heart, not his body. You indicate that financial provision is not an issue and that he gets around well enough to take care of himself. So the question seems to be whether your staying around is the only thing that will help him move forward toward healing his heart, not his brain.

That’s a question I can’t answer entirely, but I would at least suggest that the solution might be as simple as his getting some good, Bible-based counseling. I’d go as far as to say that even if he had you around, but didn’t get counseling, he wouldn’t be much better off than if you weren’t around. You’d merely have two miserable people rather than one and yes, you’d be enabling.

I have two pieces of advice. First, I would suggest that you immediately talk to a counselor and ask his or her opinion on how to help your dad. It might be good to look into grief counseling (might even be good for both of you to go together if possible), and maybe that could get him pointed in the right direction. Contact someone locally who you know will point you in the right direction for solid counseling. If your physical presence isn’t required for him to get counseling and move toward healing his hurt, then I think that weighs in favor of exploring your job opportunity.

Second, read Ruth again.

OK. A third assignment. Rejoice that God has both you and your dad in the palm of His hand. He will let you know beyond any doubt what you need to do, and even if we fumble a decision while trying to follow Him, He’s plenty capable of redeeming it.



Copyright 2009 John Thomas. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

John Thomas

John Thomas has been a Boundless contributor since its beginning in 1998. He and his wife, Alfie, have three children and live in Arkansas, where he serves as executive director of Ozark Camp and Conference Center, a youth camp and retreat center.


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