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I have been working what I’ve realized is a dead-end job for the last few years, and I’m ready to move on, but I am trying to figure out what on earth I’m supposed to do for the rest of my life. I have been offered a ministry position at my church, but even though I love my church, I just don’t feel like that’s what I’m supposed to do. I still have a lot of debt from school, so I feel like I need to be somewhat practical. So my question is, how do I choose where to go next, and how do I know that is where God wants me, without feeling crippled by college debt making me jump at a chance to make money?
I can almost see the chess board you’ve fashioned in your mind. Every decision, every opportunity, every mitigating factor is piece that, when moved, affects another piece.
My goodness. QL, I’m tired just thinking about the work you’re doing to win the game—or at least stay in it for a good long while. To that end, I’m going to give you four ideas to consider. My hope is that if you truly dig into these truths, the chess board will be cleared, broken in half, set on fire and the ashes scattered across the lovely field of roses that is your life.
OK, I may have taken that metaphor too far.
Let’s get to work:
You’ll Never Figure Out the Rest of Your Life
Never. Ever. You’ll never know what victories and hardships will happen tomorrow, and you’ll never be able to out-strategize an all-knowing and sovereign God. You just can’t do it—and you shouldn’t try.
QL, test my theory. Find some of your favorite 50+ year old friends and ask them what they thought their life would be like when they were 25. I can guarantee that nine out of 10 boomers will laugh and regale you with tales of surprise successes and failures. In short, they’ll share with you the story of God’s plans versus their own.
So when you write, “I am trying to figure out what on earth I’m supposed to do for the rest of my life,” I feel you—I really do. I got my first big-boy job a month shy of my 30th birthday, and I thought I’d finally found “the one” job for me. As you may have guessed, that did not work out. Everything blew up about five years in, and what I thought was my forever job became simply a season of life—a season that was totally worth it, but also cut surprisingly short, considering I had assumed it was my life’s work.
I share this with you because my story is not unique—it’s common. And the sooner you and I drop “forever,” the more nimble we’ll be for today.
Don’t Work in Your Church
Ah yes, did you hear that? The audible outcry of a million institutional pastors preparing their angry Facebook replies to that sentence. However, I’m not saying this as a general rule to all people. Church work is noble and great. What I’m saying to you, QL, is that you shouldn’t work in your church—at least, not right now.
My guess is that you are an all-star volunteer. And from a church leader’s perspective, when we’re looking for someone to hire, we look to those already doing the work. You are likely that person, and that’s why you’re being offered the job. Notice what I said there: job. Not calling, not even vocation, job.
The difference is that your primary calling is already on your shoulders—church staff or not. As a follower of Jesus, you’re already called to love God and His people with all you have. That is already the cornerstone of your life. So the job of working in your church is not some higher, more noble pursuit. It’s a job. It’s a way to volunteer with an income. So unless you’re feeling some deep calling (which I don’t sense from your question), then the church role should be measured equally against all other jobs. If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it. The real work of loving Jesus is already in your job description.
QL, for about a million practical and theological reasons, eliminating debt must be one of (if not the highest) priority for you right now. I’m telling you, there are no stronger handcuffs on your life than having debt, and there is no greater freedom than being debt-free.
As we discussed before (see point No. 1), your life is going to run in seasons. Jobs and situations will ebb and flow in some pattern unique to your life. However, for you to stay agile and be able to navigate those seasons well, you’re going to need to be out of debt. If you’re not, your decisions may be based on money instead of interest, feasibility instead of passion and cash flow instead of calling (alliteration accidental … yuck, I did it again).
What does that mean for you? Make a plan to get out of debt that includes a conservative budget and a truckload of hard work. Then, doggedly stick to that plan and do whatever you need to do to pay everything off—quickly. And yes, at this point in your life, I would take any job that you can stomach that pays a lot. It’s a season, and it’s just a job (see point No. 2). The work you do now will echo in the future seasons of your life. Trust me.
Live Your Life!
And now, I’ll totally contradict myself. For all of the mental gymnastics that I’m asking you to do to get your entire vocational and financial life in perspective, I also want you to work equally as hard to forget all of that and just live.
Yes, just exhale for a moment and breathe in the sweet freedom of being alive and free and happy!
This is what really matters, QL. And this is what God has put you on this earth to do—to enjoy your time and be about the work of His creation. Sometimes we (or maybe this is just me) spend so much time trying to figure it all out, that weeks and months slip by and we’ve lost what it is we’re living for. We can’t do that to ourselves, or we’ll be working for nothing.
You’ll figure out jobs and finances and all of that. You really will. You’re curious, you care and you’re intelligent enough to look at your life and ask great questions. You’re going to be fine, QL. Do your best to make the right decisions—and for the love of all things holy, set the chess board on fire!
Have a question? Good! Send an email to [email protected]. All identifying information will be kept anonymous.
Eddie Kaufholz is a writer, speaker and podcaster and serves as a director of church mobilization for International Justice Mission. He also hosts and produces "The New Activist" podcast. You can find on Twitter @EdwardorEddie.