purpose

Of Passion, Purpose, and God’s Will

What if I Can’t Find My Calling?

man walking in fog“What’s wrong with me?” seems to be the feeling as so many people these days appear to be in an endless search for life’s secrets. All the talk conveys a desperate struggle to “discover my passion,” “fulfill my purpose,” “find my calling,” “discern God’s will,” and of course, “be happy.”

Sure, it can be helpful to learn more about ourselves via a personality quiz. And we’d best avoid a job in accounting if we failed math class. But people are doing evaluation after evaluation, reading book after book, going to seminar after seminar . . . for years. There’s a sense of panic as people of all ages moan, “I don’t even know what my passion is yet!”

One day I was happily working—thankful for a successful surgery and time with my daughter, for progress in my ministries, for sunshine and iced tea . . . Then up popped an ad for a new book. At last, the author promised, I could find my “true calling.” I could discover the secret of personal fulfillment. I could “finally be successful” if only . . .

Whoa. I hadn’t been feeling inferior, discontent, or left behind. But now I’d certainly been exposed as the garden slug that I am! Such books and lectures are everywhere. No wonder so many people conclude that something must be wrong with them.

Though from a secular viewpoint, the 10-minute video “Stop Searching for Your Passion” cleverly addresses our paranoia that we’re gonna “get on the wrong train.”

I suggest that any sincere Christian is already on the right train. Period. We sure don’t see the Bible heroes wringing their hands that they’re missing their calling until they find their dream job. Read the life stories of Joseph, Nehemiah, Daniel, Paul. . . . They just kept honoring the Lord in what they did—tasks sometimes decided by them, sometimes dropped into their laps; sometimes exciting, sometimes painful. There’s nothing of the idea that they galumphed along in mediocrity and discontent—(and by implication, out of God’s will)—till the latest guru revealed how they could “finally be successful.” The picture we get is more like Colossians 3:17: “Whatever you do . . . do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks.”

So, friends, let’s detox from the hype and realign our thinking.

What if I Can’t Find the Right Spiritual Secrets?

The “What’s wrong with me?” mind-set spills over into the spiritual-practice category (things of a devotional nature for getting close to God). As Christian books bombard us with the idea that there are ancient secrets, lost practices, “thin places” to break through, etc., a sense of inferiority and missing out creeps in for those believers who are “only” reading the Lord’s Word and praying to him.

labyrinthThe latest book or speaker suggests that maybe I should try a labyrinth walk, draw a magick circle, request a soul retrieval, do mantra meditation, purchase a sacred object, have Jesus directly speak/write to me . . .

Next thing you know, we think something’s wrong with us—when these things “don’t work” or don’t produce the feeling/experience that was promised. (Or worse, we have opened occult doors and got more than we bargained for!) I’ve seen Christians totally distressed that they might not be doing the right combination of spiritual technologies. One person cried, “I don’t know if I should be fasting or speaking in tongues or . . . or what!” Another puzzled believer said, “My friend says that Jesus directly reveals to her every move she should make, but that doesn’t happen to me. Am I missing something?”

As leaders and books push these cosmic procedures, we’ve totally forgotten that the Lord made it easy: Read his Word (that’s him talking to us). Do what it says. Pray (that’s our talking to him).

So let’s go back to the Scripture. Read about Moses, Joshua, Ezekiel, Mary, Paul . . . The Lord did (and can do) dazzling things sometimes, but—and don’t miss this crucial point—HE initiated them in the accounts we have. Where do we find it the other way around, that we can invent a formula with the power to manipulate the Lord into action? And we certainly don’t find the Bible greats all frustrated in their daily devotions: “Sheesh. If only I could figure out how to have a relationship with the Lord.”

People who say “I don’t feel my faith” are looking to practices like those mentioned above. If we want to “feel” our faith, let’s just live according to the examples in Scripture (and follow guidance like Matthew 7:24-27; 1 John 3:23, 24; Ephesians 6:10-18). When we are the Lord’s confident and bold representatives, my guess is we won’t need to conjure a phony spiritual sensation. We’ll feel something.

The Bottom Line

We’ve been talking about people’s fear that they’re missing out on their calling, not sure of their purpose, etc. And these feelings produce a sense of discontent with our current job or role or location. The following quote seemed a fitting conclusion to the whole broader topic:

man walking in bright open space“[In] the Sermon on the Mount, [Jesus] gave one of the best descriptions of what a person’s life looks like when they begin to follow Him. . . . I’m not sure on that day that Jesus was all that concerned about helping people know exactly where they were supposed to go next or what they were supposed to do. It seems, though, that He was incredibly concerned about the kind of people they were to be when they went wherever they went and did whatever they did.” (Zack Atchley, “The Greatest Calling on Earth,” ENCOUNTER—The Magazine, 11/8/2015)

Bottom line: When we aim to obey what the Lord has already told us in his Word—and when we aim to follow the Bible’s examples/guidelines in every area of our lives—we’re IN the Lord’s will! We don’t need to wonder whether or not we are. And that’s our calling. Instead of trying to “find” a passion, let’s just decide to BE passionate about such a grand purpose!

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