How do I know what my purpose is? How do I know that I’m making the right decision and following God’s will for my life?
So many of us have asked, or are asking, these questions as we navigate the waters of adult life. Maybe you’re about to graduate high school and are feeling nervous about your next steps. Maybe you’re a bit older and even have some college/ work experience but are feeling disappointed and dissatisfied. No matter what situation you’re in, we’re here to say that it’s ok, and that there is so much reason to have hope for the future.
The Elusive “Calling”
So many in this generation are struggling with anxiety and depression. Much of it stemming from insecurity in identity and in life direction. I know this because this was my struggle, this was the struggle of many of my peers, and this is the struggle of many young adults that I speak to.
I’ve noticed that christian (and even non christian) culture can, at times, elevate the idea of “calling” to the point where many have come to view it as a lofty, elusive thing that doesn’t quite reconcile with normal career expectations. It seems more teens are stepping into adult life feeling a bit clumsy and confused about life in general. This confusion makes no exception to people who are navigating this and what it means to follow Jesus. I believe clarity will come when we demystify this idea of “calling” and bring the focus back where it truly belongs.
“We often think of calling as this mysterious, enigmatic idea. I know lots of people who are waiting around for a calling from God to come in the form of a dream or a vision or a crazy prophet who walks up to them on the sidewalk with fire in his eyes and a word from God – God become a rock-climbing instructor.” ¹
The Source of a Fulfilled Life
What we all really want is to experience the fullness of life. Being able to do the things that we are passionate about, the things that make us come alive, to feel fulfilled and content are all certainly aspects of that.
The truth is that all of life, every aspect and facet, flows from God. Learning how to recognize God’s voice and discover not only who He is, but who He’s made you to be, is the greatest step you can take toward discovering your calling or purpose in life. A life lived in intimacy with our heavenly Father is the definition of a fulfilled life. It is literally the most fundamental thing you were created for. When you discover your “calling” based in that relationship with God, you’ll see it’s less about what you do and more about who you are.
Discovering your calling is much more about discovering God’s desire in creating you than anything else. Psalm 139:13 says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” You were designed by God for a purpose, and until you discover God, you’ll struggle to discover what that purpose is.
Your birth was the answer to a need on the earth. Think of how each part of God’s creation is endowed with irrevocable purpose. Plants that are not only beautiful but are used to nourish the creatures who eat them. The smallest animals that help uphold the delicate balance of an ecosystem. Why would your life have any less weight in the wellbeing of this world? Are you not of more worth to God than the lilies of the field? (Matthew 6:25-43)
So, who better to show you who you were made to be and what role you were purposed to fill, then the one who purposed you from the start? And what better place to uncover all of this than in intimate, close relationship with Him.
The best place to start in discovering your call is in relationship with your Creator.
When this relationship with Jesus becomes our foundation, we always discover what makes us come alive. And His voice and lovingkindness gives us the peace that we can follow Him, one step at a time, and see His purposes for our lives come to fruition.
One of my favorite teachers, Steve Backlund, says, any area of your life that is not dripping with hope is under the influence of a lie. Do you feel anxious and uncertain about your future? Ask the Lord, “What lies am I believing about who you are (your nature or your goodness) and what lies am I believing about myself (who you made me to be)?”
When we are walking in true understanding of who He is and who He says that we are, we will walk in the empowering freedom that allows us to pursue our passions and discover our gifts.
You Uniquely Bear His Image
“If we fight the image of God in us – even if we succeed in the short run – it will come back to eat us alive.” ¹
It can be easy to dislike parts of our personalities. We can wish we were more outgoing, more straight forward, more creative, more whatever. But to accept who we are and who we are not will bring us peace.
You bear the image of Christ in a way that no one else does. He created you just as you are, once again, to fulfill a specific need in the world around you. When you step in to fill this need, it will bless the people around you, and make you come alive.
“We need to learn to embrace our potential and our limitations. Because both of them are signposts, pointing us forward into God’s calling on our life… I’ve learned what I’m good at, and I’ve learned what I’m bad at. And the more I embrace both, the freer I become.” ¹
The more we discover and accept and love and embrace who we are, the less we’ll feel lost in a sea of endless options. How else are you supposed to narrow down what to say yes to unless you also know what to say no to? Your energy and your thoughts and your time will be forever split until you pick something, try it out, and see how it goes. And if you fail, that’s ok because you’re not locked in that thing forever, and you’ve been brought one step closer to finding what you’re truly made for.
Just Take a Step!
Don’t allow worry of making a mistake stop you from moving forward! In the journey of life, there may even be times when we take a job just to have a job. When we have those seasons (of mistakes or making due) it’s ok – God has given us the ability to, in Him, thrive in every circumstance and situation. When He is our source and we are aware that He is always with us, the dullest of tasks can be life giving and fruitful because we’re doing them with Him! But we also live in the awareness that if something’s not good yet, it’s not the end. God is on the move to make all things filled with His glory and His life. (Even when it doesn’t look exactly how we first expected).
Giving yourself time to figure out what you’re good at and what makes you come alive – who God designed you to be – is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself. It’s much harder to change careers if you’ve spent thousands of dollars on an education, even one that you suddenly don’t want to use. (If you have found yourself there, or end up there, kudos for taking the leap of faith! I believe it will be worth it if you’re following the leading of Jesus).
Taking a gap year does not set you behind your peers. You may actually advance farther in your career more quickly than some of your peers who jumped straight into college, because you’ve given yourself time to discover what gifts and passions God has given you.
“It takes time to figure out our gifting. And then years to develop it. Most of us don’t really know when we’re young. So experiment.” ¹
Surround Yourself With Support
If you decide to take a gap year (or two), don’t do it in a vacuum. I mean, don’t do it alone. Surround yourself with people who inspire you, who will encourage you and give you honest, helpful feedback as you try different things. Do it in a place that will allow your relationship with God to take the front seat. You’ll find that you discover your giftings much faster when the Holy Spirit is the one directing you. You’ll find your passions as you partner with God in prayer for the things that are on His heart. Do it in a place where you can discover who GOD is and how to have relationship with him.
When I decided to drop out of college to pursue God and missions, the Lord lead me to a DTS. There I discovered intimate relationship with Jesus like I had never known. Fears and anxieties melted away in His love, and as I joined staff, I found lots of opportunities to discover what I’m passionate about. And I learned how to do it all for the Kingdom of God!
God moves in unique ways in all our lives, maybe he’s calling you straight to college, maybe to an internship, maybe to a DTS or another discipleship course. Whatever it is, make it your goal to do it with God. His presence will give you direction and peace and quiet those lies of fear and doubt. Take the step. There are good things ahead!
¹ Quotes from Garden City by John Mark Comer