For many of us, we pursue a career based on what we are good at and what we love to do. If you are good at acting, you may pursue a career as a professional actor; if you are a talented skateboarder, you may pursue pro skating; and the list goes on. Still, others take a more practical approach, sacrificing doing something they love in order to have a higher paying career. And there is not necessarily anything wrong with this—many feel the responsibility to provide a comfortable living for their family, and others may have school debts they want to pay off. Though it is possibly more rare, there are those who are blessed to be able to make a comfortable living doing exactly what they love.
You most likely fall into one of the above categories, and there is nothing wrong with any of them. But what’s interesting is that you will meet people in each of these categories who are unhappy. It does not seem to matter whether you are a pro football player, a multi-millionaire, or a waitress in a diner—people are left still searching for more. No doubt, the NFL player is doing exactly what he’s always dreamed of, yet he is not satisfied. The Donald Trumps of the world have certainly reached their financial goals, yet they want more.
Currently, maybe you are early into your career or still a student. If you are like me, you have probably had the mentality that once you got into your dream career, you’d be happy. You think,once I get that promotion, once I’m married, once I find a job doing what I love, once I am successful—then I’ll be set. Whether we have consciously thought it or not, if we’re honest, we have all believed this at some point or another.
I was going to college actually pursing a “ministry career”—I wanted to be a church music leader. I loved music, I was a Christian, and I was good at leading worship so it seemed to make sense.
I attended a conference, and there I met a girl in her mid-twenties in a small group break-out session. This young lady explained how she was graduated, now married, and a few years into her career. By her standards, she had “arrived”, yet she confessed to us that she was left wondering if there was more. What she said next really struck me; she said, “There has to be more to life than just pursuing this American dream.”
Eventually, you will most likely arrive at a similar crisis in your life. Maybe right now you are experiencing the excitement that comes with being in (or working towards) your dream career, but sooner or later the excitement will be gone, and then what? You may end up making a comfortable living, but it will not satisfy you. You may be doing exactly what you love doing, but something will still be missing.
The American Dream is not all it’s cracked up to be. The Holy Spirit began speaking to my heart through that young lady. He showed me that my career pursuit—even though it was ministry—was fleeting. The vision I had for my life at that point was very limited. I did not necessarily want to be a millionaire, but I wanted to make enough to live a comfortable life. More than that, I just wanted to do something with my life that would make me happy. Again, making money and doing what you love are not bad things, but by themselves they are meaningless.
I had often heard people talk about this idea of a “calling”, but I never understood it—not until God showed me my personal calling during that same conference. Through different teachings and circumstances at the conference, He showed me that He was calling me to go to the nations, building relationships and sharing the love of God with people—what most people call a missionary. It turned out my interests and passions aligned perfectly with this calling from God—for sake of brevity, I will not go into detail—but the point is that I was given direction and purpose.
That is how I would define a calling: direction that brings purpose to your life. Working and making money is good, but they do not give you purpose. Your calling transcends all of that. When you know what you are called to and are following through with it, you will make those kinds of career decisions based on that. By itself, pursuit of a career can be a selfish pursuit, but pursuit of a calling is focused on others. Whether you believe in God or not, the “Golden Rule” ultimate rings true with all of us: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Is that not a worthy purpose in life?
In a general sense, every human being has this calling to help others; but I would clarify that a calling has a personalized element to it. You have been wired a certain way, and that is by no mistake. Your calling is formed around your individual passions and giftings. God says that he knows his plans for you, to give you a hope and a future (Jer. 29:11). That means that you have purpose. He has a calling that is tailor-made for you.
For me, yes I was pursuing something I was passionate about (music), but I had never opened my heart to let God dictate my purpose. Once I did, God gave me a calling that I know will incorporate my musical gifts and many of my other passions. It is also one that is much bigger and more exciting than what I had been pursuing.
When God shows you your calling, it will be so exciting for you! God is calling me to be a missionary, and for me that is exciting. But for you, he may have something totally different. Your calling may involve you in the business world, or in sports, or in education, or whatever!
How do you discover your calling? Two simple steps. Ask God, and he will be faithful to show you—through circumstances, through people, through the Bible. But even more important than that is be open. You may be surprised with what he shows you. For me, it was so much different than I expected; but trust me, it will be so much better than you could have imagined.