BY: IAN NELSON
This article is for all those who ever find themselves asking the question, “What am I doing with my life?” Pinpointing your future career (or vocation, or “calling” if you want to use a more spiritual-sounding word…) is one of the most important conundrums weighing on the mind of any normal college student or twenty-something.
Here is a short list of questions that a group of us at my church like to ask in helping young people begin to identify their future career, as well as a potential niche for serving in the church community:
1. What are you passionate about?
This is a great place to start. What kinds of things do you get excited about? To borrow an old saying from my grandpa, “What turns your crank?” What types of things do you find yourself daydreaming about, or happily distracted by?
Often times our deepest passions, when we are clear-headed and walking with God, reveal something about the gifts and abilities God has given us. And on top of that, if you’re going to spend the rest of your life doing something—why not spend it doing something you enjoy? The goal is to find the sweet spot where your deepest passions sync up with God’s will for your life (see Psalm 37v4).
2. What are you good at?
It’s not enough to just be passionate about something. For example, maybe you love to sing. But every time you sing, people wince and glass shatters and someone’s baby screams. Chances are, you are not supposed to be the next American Idol.
However, maybe you are savvy with numbers and spreadsheets. Now that is something that can be used powerfully for God’s Kingdom. Sit down, and make a list (or spreadsheet) of things that you can do well, or at least that you are halfway decent at. Then return to Question #1 on this list and try to connect some dots.
3. What do other people affirm in you?
You don’t follow God in a vacuum. You are designed to discover and walk in God’s will for your life in the context of community. What do other people see in you? Community is not just a safeguard, but we need wise counsel in order to walk in all that God has for us (Proverbs 15v22).
Get with someone else this week who loves God and knows you well, and ask the question, “What do you think I should do with my life?” And don’t just ask your mom. She will always think you can jump over the moon. Start with a mentor, an uncle, a professor, a pastor, a co-worker, or a good friend you grew up with.
4. Where are the open doors in your life?
If God really wants you to do something, he will eventually provide an opportunity. God has a way of opening the right doors in his perfect timing. Following God is not about forcing the issue, but walking in surrender and dependence, being willing to serve in whatever capacity he puts in front of you.
Sometimes a closed door means “not gonna happen,” and other times it just means “not yet.” Sometimes you have to wake up, smell the coffee, and move on when doors slam shut—and other times you just have to be patient, and stay faithful where you’re at. We need a lot of discernment in this area, and when in doubt, refer back to Question #3.
5. What is God blessing?
This one is huge. What is God already using in your life? After all, the whole point of anything we do in life as God’s people is to glorify God and join the mission of Jesus in the world.
What are some ways that God has used you powerfully in the past? In what areas of your life do you sense God’s favor? Where have you been bearing the most fruit? Look for a trail of kingdom fruit in your life, and trace it back to the kinds of things that correlate with who God has made you to be.
6. What do you hear God saying?
In the Bible, God talks to people. He tells Abraham where to go, and Abraham goes. And God is still speaking to his people today. Sometimes “hearing God’s voice” can seem too intimidating, too ambiguous, and too complicated. Unlike Abraham, most of us don’t hear an audible voice (I wish!).
However, we do know that every time we read the Bible, we are hearing God’s voice (2 Timothy 3v16). So crack open a Bible daily and read. Hold up your ideas, your desires, and your plans to scripture, and make adjustments where necessary. Then pray, and take time to listen. Perhaps the Holy Spirit may want to bring words, ideas, or even a vision to your mind. I recommend having a journal handy to write things down, and then run it by godly leaders or loved ones in your life to see if they think it’s legit.
Whatever you do with this list, start by taking a deep breath. You don’t have to figure out your entire future today. Just follow God’s leading one step at a time, and take the practical steps that you can take right now. God’s calling on your life isn’t something he wants to leave you in the dark on. Have faith, and keep going.
(DISCLAIMER: I do realize the number “6” is symbolic for imperfection in the Bible. Perhaps it is prophetic for the above list, which is only meant to be read as a brief and incomplete conversation-starter…either that, or it’s just the only 6 questions I have, and we shouldn’t over-spiritualize everything! Anyhow, I pray that you find this list helpful and that God will use it in your life.)