I used to dread questions like, “Have you found your calling yet?” or “What’s your calling in life?” because I felt like a failure for having to answer, “I’m not sure.” As an older teen and college student, I felt so much pressure to figure out what God wanted me to do with the rest of my life. It seemed everyone expected me to have my entire life mapped out before college graduation.
The topic of calling is such a popular one in Christian circles, yet it can bring so much fear and frustration for those of us who don’t “have it all figured out yet”. Christians usually limit the definition of calling to mean a career or a commitment to be a missionary or in the ministry. What I wish I’d known when I was younger is that the idea of God’s calling is actually much broader than just those two areas and discerning His calling doesn’t have to be as intimidating as it seems.
A calling is simply a tug on our hearts by God toward a particular thing. A calling can be for a specific situation, for a season of life, or for a lifetime. While every Christian has one main calling – to live a life of obedience to God – each Christian also has an individual calling. God calls each of us to different things, such as relationships, jobs, ministries, cities, etc. at different times in our lives. Sometimes He calls us to start doing things, and sometimes He calls us to stop doing things. Sometimes He calls us to go, and sometimes He calls us to stay right where we are.
When we notice we’re being drawn toward something, the task of discerning whether God is the one drawing us in that direction or whether it’s our own desires pulling us there can feel impossible, but it’s definitely possible. If you’re sensing a nudge toward something and you’re not sure if it’s from Him, here are a few ways we can tell if God is the one doing the calling:
1. A calling from God will never contradict Scripture. This one may seem obvious, but it can be surprisingly easy for us to give in to a desire that doesn’t match how Scripture calls us to live. If the thing you’re feeling called to is causing you to sin, it isn’t from God. God’s callings for us will always draw us closer to Him, not pull us away from Him. (2 Corinthians 10:4-6, 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
2. A calling from God will always be accompanied by His peace, as well as anything else we need. Sometimes God will ask us to do something big or scary, and while we may feel afraid, our fears will be met by God’s overwhelming grace and peace to do whatever it is He’s asking us to do. He will also never call us to something without also equipping us to do the thing He’s asking us to do. (Matthew 11:28-30, Philippians 4:7)
3. A calling from God will often be accompanied by confirmation. Many times God will confirm what He’s asking us to do through situations and even through other people. If you’re unsure about a potential calling in your life right now, ask God to make it clear to you by sending you some sort of confirmation. He doesn’t want you to be confused, so don’t hesitate to ask Him for wisdom. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-21, James 1:5)
4. A calling from God will always result in His being glorified. While our callings can and often do benefit us, whether by growing us or by blessing us, ultimately any God-given calling will point back to Him. If your calling seems to be all about your happiness and success with no thought, thanks, or credit being given to God, it probably isn’t from Him. (1 Corinthians 10:31, 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)
At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember when figuring out your calling is obedience to God. If you’re seeking His will with an obedient heart, He will make it clear to you, and when He makes it clear, I encourage you to do whatever He’s calling you to do right away. I’ve learned from experience that delayed obedience results in delayed blessings. So if He’s asking you to be still, be still so that He can start to work in your situation. If He’s asking you to get up and go, get up and go so that He can work in you and through you. The sooner we obey, the sooner He can start working things out for His ultimate glory and our ultimate good.