There’s one dominant formula to discovering your calling today. It goes something like this:
Understand your gifts/personality + Find something your passionate about + Do what fulfills you = Your calling
But there’s a problem with that formula.
It’s not that all the parts are wrong. Most of them are important to discerning your calling. It’s that the whole formula is designed to serve one person – you.
Jeremiah 17:9 tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” We can’t trust our hearts. They trick us into thinking we deserve to be happy, or that we shouldn’t have to deny ourselves something that feels right. So it’s unwise to let our hearts and our desires and our wishes lead us in the way of discerning our calling.
We live in a time where no one wants to deny themselves of anything, much less tell someone else they need to. That means a lot of the advice about finding your calling isn’t giving you the whole story. Here’s what no one tells you about your calling.
It will be really hard
Think of all the times God asked someone to do something in the Bible. How many of His commands made sense to the people receiving them? Most of them sounded outright absurd, if not entirely impossible.
If you’re pursuing your calling in a way that’s aligned with God’s will, there will be times when you’ll feel the same way. There will be days when no one around you thinks you’re doing the right thing. There will definitely be days when you have no idea if you’re doing the right thing.
It won’t always make you happy
Moses wasn’t thrilled to be sent before Pharaoh. Jonah wasn’t overjoyed to be called to Ninevah.
God is calling you to do something He created you to do, but it might not make you happy. In fact, it probably won’t, at least not all the time.
Ultimately, this is about obeying God regardless of what He calls you to do. Paul looked back on his life and was content because he did the ministry that was assigned to him, not because he was happy all the time. But since he knew he did what God called him to, he had something even more important – joy.
Happiness can be taken away from you since it’s a feeling based on our circumstances, which means it’s not strong enough to give your life meaning. The only thing strong enough to give our lives meaning is being a part of what God is doing in this world. The closer you live in line with that truth, the more you’ll give yourself away to others. And the more you give yourself away to others, the more you’ll find the kind of joy that comes from serving Christ that can give your life meaning.
Don’t measure something’s worth by how happy it makes you. That’s a sure way to live a life of unhappiness. Your calling isn’t worth doing because of how it makes you feel; it’s worth doing because of Who called you to it.
It won’t be what you had in mind
Nowhere in the Bible did God call someone to do something they were totally comfortable with. In every instance, God asks them to give up something they loved or cared deeply for.
God has a plan for you, it’s just that His plan looks nothing like the one you have in mind because it involves dying to something you love. Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” At the very least, your decision to follow Jesus means you’ll be dying to yourself. That means you might be giving up your hopes, your dreams, your home, your family, or anything else you might be loving more than God.
Whatever pursuing your calling looks like, it won’t be what you had in mind. In fact, the whole point is for it to look like what He had in mind.
It might not earn you human praise
God calls plenty of people to do thankless things. Barnabas is remembered for being an encourager. Not many people sign up for that volunteer role.
God calls most of us to do the work we already do, make disciples where we live, and give our lives to His church. Most of us will go unnamed and unthanked in the history books. But that only matters if we’re looking for human applause.
Our audience is different. And we don’t pursue our calling for His praise (we already have that in Christ), we do it as a form of praise to Him.
It’s worth it
Okay, so most people probably do tell you this, but many times they’re taking the wrong angle. Obeying God’s call on your life is so worth it. But it’s not worth it because it makes you happy or helps you find fulfillment.
It’s worth it because He’s worth it. Obeying God’s call is worth it because the Father thought you were worth His Son’s life.
The only way we find life that is truly life is in obeying Jesus’ commands as we live out God’s call on our lives. We need far more Christians who are willing to be obedient to God’s call regardless of what it looks like.
Going into the 6,000 unreached people groups at risk of losing your life doesn’t make anyone happy – but it’s worth it.
Sharing Christ with your agnostic neighbor won’t make you happy – but it’s worth it.
Doing the same job for 30 years while making disciples and seeing little fruit won’t make you happy – but it’s worth it.
So by all means, find your calling. Ask the questions. Do the homework. But don’t do it for yourself – do it for Him.