[Life 201 is a weekly advice column headed by pastor, counselor and RELEVANT Podcast member Eddie Kaufholz. Eddie answers questions and gives advice on issues you want to hear about. Email your questions to Life201@RELEVANTmagazine.com.]
Hello! Today we’re quitting our jobs and joining a band. Take that, “the man”!
Eddie, I’m in an OK job, but it’s just not that great anymore. I think God is calling me to quit and pursue my dream to be a missionary. What should I do?
Tyler, right off the bat I need to recuse myself from being the best advice giver on this answer. If God is truly calling you to leave your current job and become a missionary, then who am I to challenge that? If you’ve prayed about it, consulted with your community, read the Bible and listened to God thoroughly on the matter, then you don’t need to ask me what’s best. Trust God’s provision and go change the world.
Having said that, I sense a bit of waffling in your question. Maybe you’re just having a hard time pulling the trigger (totally understandable, quitting is scary!), or maybe there’s something deeper going on that every person who has ever worked experiences at some point. Are you ready for it? Drum roll …
Working kind of sucks.
Profound, right? But it’s true, and Biblical! In the craziness that went down in the Garden of Eden, one of the results of Adam and Eve jumping the shark was that work would now be a toil (Genesis 3, but really, you should read Genesis 1-4 to get the whole story). Adam and Eve had already worked before the fall, so those that contend that working itself is the result of the Devil’s handiwork are wrong. Work is a part of life. However, work being difficult and burdensome is a post-fall benefit—yeah!
So, Tyler, the idea that you’re unhappy in your role is nothing new, and it’s nothing that a new job will completely take away. There’s an inherent part of EVERY job that’s just a bit of a grind.
You may think of missionaries people who are living the dream in a foreign country, sharing the Gospel left and right and seeing dramatic conversions on a daily basis. And parts of that may be true, but guess what else is true? Meetings, criticism, unrealistic expectations, culture shock, lack of inspiration, personal struggles, boredom, etc. etc. And why is that, Tyler? Because work is a toil, even in the dream scenario.
Now hear me say this: I don’t want to be a complete Doug Downer and lead you to believe that you’ll never be happy at work. That’s not true. But what I want to warn against is the idea that we have to be fully happy for the job to be right.
As Gen-Xers and Millennials, we’ve grown up in a Christian culture that dares us to be bold. We’ve read book after book about being brave in exploring how God has uniquely wired us, and then we’ve been prodded to take faith-filled steps in pursuing that truth. This, of course, is fantastic advice. But, I think sometimes we binge on that “God wants you to be bold” idea and assume that if we’re somehow not 100 percent satisfied, God must be calling us to something different.
And maybe He is. But maybe He isn’t. Because for every human from Adam to Tyler, work has never been 100 percent fulfilling, and God never promised it would be.
Which brings us back to you, Tyler. Why do you want to quit? Seriously. I want you to answer that question in your heart and mind and get really honest with God before moving forward. Because being a missionary is brave and honorable, but you called it a “dream.” So what kind of dream is it? Is it a dream rooted in God’s calling and preparing you for that inspiring yet difficult journey, or is it a dream of escaping to something better, something void of toil?
Answering these questions are hard, but the work that you do in realizing your motivations will pay dividends as you go and change the world.
Some of my (older) friends are musicians and I would love to become involved in their local music scene. However, they drink heavily, swear and are not Christians. What do you recommend I do?
Tyra, I can just tell by the few sentences you wrote that you’re awesome. You’re young, artistic, a really good friend and a compassionate Christian. I bet your musician pals are really lucky to know you.
Here’s the encouragement: Jesus made quite a life spending time with all types of people. And He did this not only because He wanted them to know God, but because He cared for them as people. As believers, we must be doing the same.
I don’t know what your particular flavor of evangelism is, but I can assure you that even if you’re not handing out tracts between sets, the life you live and the fruit of your spirit will be evident to your friends. Those friends need to know you, even if they’re not fully aware of why. Give them that opportunity.
Here’s the warning: Being in any missions field is tough, and you’re going to have to set strong boundaries concerning what you will and won’t allow yourself to be involved in. Maybe it won’t be anything for you to abstain from getting drunk, but it could be tough to watch your tongue and speak kindly when others aren’t.
I don’t know what, if anything, will be difficult for you. But I know that being a one-man-band is a tempting road. If at all possible, engage in this journey with others in your Christian community and allow a mentor/pastor type to ask you the hard questions and keep you pointed toward true north.
One last thing, because I’m a dad of girls, I feel compelled to say that if your friends are drunk, call somebody for a ride home. I know you know this, but your mother and I worry.
Well, I think our work here is done. As always, thanks for reading and taking the time submit awesome questions!
Have a question? Good! All identifying information will be kept anonymous. Send an email to Life201@RELEVANTmagazine.com
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.