The school year is ending and many are contemplating a new season of life. They are getting ready to head into the “real world” (where you actually get paid to work!) or perhaps starting to contemplate college and careers. If you are in this place you may wonder, “What is God calling me to do?” To answer this question you might decide to wait for a blinding light and audible voice. That approach has worked for some (albeit a very select few), but more than likely God will reveal your calling in a more ordinary way.
God is in the details of life and often the way he calls people to different professions is by the gifts he gives to them. In Genesis 1 God both commands people to work and blesses them to do it. The gift of work is accompanied by the gift to work. Understanding how we are gifted goes hand in hand with understanding our calling, because God often calls people to serve him in places that fit their giftings (1 Corinthians 7:7, 17; Romans 12:4–8).
So let’s look at a few things that may help determine where the Lord is calling you.
1. Consider your unique giftings.
People have different skills and desires that equip them to succeed at certain tasks. Some are gifted at teaching, others at leading, others at administration, and the list goes on and on (Romans 12:6–8; 1 Corinthians 12:4–11; 1 Peter 4:9–11). Knowing what you are good at and what you enjoy doing is one important part of calling.
If every time you go to fix something you do more harm than good, then being a mechanic might not be in your future. If you hate math, then accounting probably isn’t the way to go. An ideal job is one that you both enjoy and are gifted at (Romans 12:6–8; Ecclesiastes 3:22), so this is an important part of determining God’s calling for you.
There will certainly be parts of any profession that you do not like and will need to persevere through. But it is good to find something that fits who you are and how God has wired you. So think and pray long and hard about who you are, what productive activities bring you joy, what you’re drawn to, and what skill areas seem to come most naturally.
2. Assess your aptitude in your giftings.
Besides different giftings, people also have different levels of giftings. With the gift of leadership, one person may be gifted to lead a group of ten and another gifted to lead a group of a thousand (Exodus 18:21, 25; Deuteronomy 1:15). Two people may have a gift of management, yet one will excel at managing a small business, while another can effectively run a billion-dollar corporation. You might have a gift of playing basketball, but is it strong enough to earn a living?
God calls us to use our gifts in accordance with the measure he gives them to us (Romans 12:3). People can have similar gifts but the different capacities of those gifts can put them in very different roles. Each has a gifting with great dignity and value, but it comes in different measures.
3. Weigh the mixture of your giftings.
God typically does not give a person just one gift but multiple gifts, and each gift with varying aptitudes. This mixture of gifts and abilities makes us proficient for a variety of works. We are each competent in many areas, above-average in some, and maybe exceptional in a few. Most jobs require more than one skill or gift, and the particular mixture of a person’s differing abilities can be as important as any single gift.
This means that people are rarely locked into just one job or field, but are instead equipped to do a variety of tasks and jobs as God provides opportunity. Paul was a preacher and also a tentmaker. David was a shepherd and a king. The mixture of gifts given makes it possible to do different jobs and tasks in different seasons, so it is very likely you will have a variety of callings in your lifetime. This means that determining our calling will probably be a life-long pursuit, rather than a single event. Our skill at making these decisions may ultimately be more important than any one decision itself.
4. Survey the opportunities in front of you.
Finally, while we can make many plans and have all kinds of lofty desires, it is always the Lord’s purposes that prevail (Proverbs 19:21). No one likes to have doors shut on us, but sometimes those slammed doors are vital for identifying our calling. Closed doors can be the Lord sending us in a direction we might never go on our own (Acts 16:7–9). Other times they can be a wakeup call, showing us that we need more preparation before taking the next step.
As you look at the opportunities that do open for you, take time to reflect on who you are and which opportunity best fits your gifting, desires, aptitudes, and the unique mixture of all three.
Second, talk about these things with people you respect and who know you well. Friends can often function like a coach on the sidelines, someone who sees your life from a more objective position. They may see where you do well and what you enjoy, and may have good thoughts on where you might thrive. Their observations aren’t infallible, of course, but we will be wise to receive the wisdom of Proverbs 15:22, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” Simply put, talk with people about your opportunities, and consider their input.
Yes, at any point along the path of your life there could be a blinding light and an audible voice, but that’s rare. Luke wrote his gospel because “it seemed like a good idea” (Luke 1:3, paraphrase). Many times, God leads us in the same spectacularly unspectacular kind of way.