Q: How do you know what God is calling you to do in your life? I know many people ask this, and no one can really give you a direct, “this is it” answer, but I’d love to hear your opinion on it.
Well, as you suspected, I’m not going to be able to give you a “this is it” answer. 😉 But I do have some thoughts. (Imagine that.) So cozy up and get ready to hear something I wish I had known when I was in high school and college: We have a tendency to WAY over-complicate God’s “will,” our “calling,” and how to figure out what to do in any given situation!
Maybe our individualistic culture has rubbed off on us Christ-followers, but we’ve somehow turned our faith walk into a faith maze. We’ve developed this mindset that there is only one way to go, one plan for each of us, and if we miss it, we’re going to hit a dead end called “outside God’s will.” Then our craving for an individualized plan paralyzes us with fear: What if God calls me to be a missionary and I don’t realize it? What if I feel called to be a singer someday—will it ruin my faith? What if God calls me to do something I don’t want to do? And PLEEEASE tell me I’m called to get married!
Don’t get me wrong—it’s a good thing to want to follow God and make sure we’re running in a direction He would approve of. And I’m all about examining our lives and making sure we’re pursuing dreams that align with God’s heart (like serving, loving, and dying to ourselves). But if we were meant to duck, swerve and swim our way into a particular “will” or “path” for our lives, you’d think we’d see some evidence of that in Scripture. Do you know what we do find about our “calling” in the Bible? Not what you might think. For all the fuss we hear about it at church, in youth group and among teens and mid-lifers alike, the biblical proof for a guaranteed, individualized plan is scant.
The truth is, our idea of “God’s call on my life” is something we Christians have basically made up. It’s “Christianese.” The Bible doesn’t talk about “calling” as a career choice, relationship manifesto or college decision. Are you as surprised as I was to hear that?
When we see the words “call,” “called,” and “calling” in the New Testament, they almost always refer to salvation—that God has “called” us to be in His family, has saved us from sin and has offered us new life with Him. Here are a few examples: Romans 11:29, 2 Peter 1:10, and Hebrews 3:1. And here’s one more from the Apostle Paul:
Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. (Ephesians 4:1)
Live a live “worthy of your calling.” That’s our purpose in a nutshell—to make life decisions (like career, marriage, college and parenting) in light of the salvation God has given us. There’s no mystical formula, no bulls-eye that we have to hit to be “in God’s will.” I think this verse sums it up beautifully:
So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. (2 Thessalonians 1:11, emphasis mine)
Our faith should move us to do good things. For me, this year that looks like writing books, being available to my little sisters here at LifeLoveandGod.com, serving at the local food bank, and giving generously of whatever God gives me. It also looks like forgiving my husband when he hurts my feelings, getting up earlier than I’d like for a chance to read the Bible, and sharing what God has done in my life with others. My faith in God leads me to do those good things, so they are God’s will for me right now. If your faith moves you to share God’s truth with your friends, then do it. If your faith moves you to another continent, then do it. And if you’re praying in faith and it seems God is opening or closing doors that make it seem that staying right where you are and loving the people around you is the best option, then do it (guilt free and with all the passion you can muster!).
Proverbs 3:5-6 says that when we consider God in our decisions, He will direct our steps. Wouldn’t it be nice if that looked like a five year plan, or a detailed map of where we will go and what we will do “someday?” More often it looks like just enough light to see where we need to place our next step. Today. Tomorrow. Then the next day. And wouldn’t it be swell if His “directing” came in the form of a clear, audible message telling us exactly what to do? But more often it’s a combination of our likes, dislikes, and those things that pull on our personal heartstrings that also line up with God’s heart (we see His passions all over the pages of the Bible, unlike an individual “calling”).
Now, just like the Apostle Paul and other Bible peeps learned, sometimes God does ask us to do something specific. And when He does, He doesn’t leave much room for doubt! (I’m thinking of Mary, Jonah, and Jospeh right now.) You’ll know what He’s asking. And in those moments, the best possible thing you can do is obey, because that’s “walking worthy of your calling” (salvation) in the truest sense—going anywhere and doing anything for the One who gave everything for you.
Here’s the absolute best-est part of all of this: FREEDOM! You have freedom to choose. When we stop trying to decipher some mystical life-plan, we can simply live our lives with one simple purpose: To know Christ and to make Him known. The rest of the details will fall into place as we go, and they can be as individual as we are. That’s why I know that you are in for one great adventure in your life, sis! As you love and follow God, He will be faithful to work everything you do, experience, sacrifice and give for His glory and your ultimate good (Romans 8:28-29). So enjoy the ride!