Stop Trying to Find Your Calling. Focus on This Instead.

Photo credit: Felix Russell-Saw

I did a post last week about how the questions people ask you can help uncover your calling.

It shouldn’t have surprised me, but that post generated a little bit of pushback. My word choice had a lot to do with it.

I almost didn’t even use the word “calling”. At first I was going to say “authority” but that sounded too business-y. Then I was going to say “purpose”, but that’s one of those words that’s been used so much it’s starting to lose meaning. So I went with “calling”

“Calling” strikes a nerve for some reason. We all have this nagging sense that we are supposed to be doing something important with our lives, and what we’re doing right now isn’t it. God has a plan for our lives, and it’s up to us to figure out what that is.

It seems that “calling” comes with its own set of baggage. And I don’t think it needs to.

I think we’re overthinking it just a tad.

Most of it is already figured out for us

Think about it. You were born at a moment in time in a certain place to a particular set of parents. You didn’t have a say in the matter. All of these things were decided for you.

But it’s more than that. You have a unique personality and a set of talents. Some of that comes from your environment for sure. But a lot of it just came naturally. You were born prewired to be interested in certain things but not others.

This wasn’t an accident. God made you in the way he did because he has a plan and a purpose for you.

I think calling is less about going out and finding something and more about realizing what’s already there. If you’re searching for how God has wired you, here are a couple of questions that might help.

  1. What do you love? God has made you like certain things over others. What are they?
  2. What do you hate? You might look out and see things like poverty and childhood cancer and get angry. God could be using that anger to encourage you to get involved in those areas.
  3. What are you good at? Specifically, what things come easily to you that are difficult for others? Sometimes these kinds of things are blind spots to us. It might be helpful to ask others for help.

We all share a calling

Books like The Purpose Driven Life resonate with people. It seems we all want to know the specific reason we’re supposed to be here. The interesting thing about Rick Warren’s book is that the lion’s share is focused on what we’re all called to do, not on God’s will for an individual’s life. And when he does finally get to that part, he spends just a couple of short chapters encouraging readers to try a few things until something clicks.

I think Warren is on to something. I think our primary focus should be on what we’re all called to do. And what is that?

“Follow me.”

When Jesus first called his disciples, he often uttered a simple phrase.

“Follow me.”

And follow they did. Once they started following him, they started listening to what he had to say.

It’s the same for all of us. Jesus is saying the same thing to all of us. More specifically, he’s saying “Deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”

That’s pretty much the Christian life in a nutshell. By denying ourselves, we’re not as worried about what we’re supposed to be doing, because the focus is no longer on us. It’s on God where it rightfully belongs.

In taking up our cross, we’re carrying with us all our baggage, all our fears, all our shortcomings. God knows you’ve failed. He doesn’t want you to get everything right before you follow him, he wants you to follow him. He never said it was the easy way. But it’s the best way.

Know his voice

“Calling” involves the act of God speaking. But more importantly it involves our listening and knowing his voice.

When we follow Jesus, we are placing our lives in the hands of a Good Shepherd:

“My sheep know my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” ~ John 10:27 (ESV)

Instead of worrying so much about calling, we should be focused on following hard after God and listening to his voice. How do we do that?

  1. His Word — God has already spoken quite a bit through Scripture, so if you’re looking for his voice, that would be a great place to start. Spend time daily in the Bible, and let it speak to your life. Get in the habit of writing down what he’s saying to you through what you’re reading.
  2. Prayer — Make prayer a daily thing. If you’re having a hard time with it, ask God to help you with it. He will. And make silence a major part of your prayer time. Don’t just talk to God. Cultivate the practice of listening to him.
  3. People — God places people in our lives for a reason. And they are often able to point out obvious things that might be a blindspot to us. If someone offers you advice or constructive criticism, listen. It could be God using this person to speak to you.
  4. Your conscience — One of my favorite verses is Psalm 37:4. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Many people misinterpret this as saying God is some kind of cosmic Santa Claus, giving you what you want. This verse is actually talking about what happens if you follow God and listen to his voice. Over time, the desires of your heart will be changed. They will be in line with God’s desires for you.
  5. Circumstances — I put this last for a reason. I believe God is in the circumstances, but it’s really hard to see this in real time. It’s more in the looking back that we’re able to see God’s hand at work in our lives, opening some doors and closing others. Circumstances are great for confirmation, but I would worry about 1 through 4.

So stop worrying so much about calling. Follow hard after God, and learn to hear the sound of his voice.

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