“How did you know you were called into global work?”
This is a question I frequently hear. I often cringe when I know it is coming, because I do not have a very good answer. I have read lots of theology books, and even a few books on calling, and they all say very wise, profound things about how God communicates His desires for our lives. However, for me it is not theological or even very profound; for me it is fairly simple:
Do I want to / am I willing / am I able? Yes.
Is it in the Bible as a good thing? Yes.
Okay, maybe I have oversimplified a bit, but I have done so because it seems so many people are looking for a mysterious, complicated experience—or a clarion clear voice—before they act.
Here are a few filters I use to discern God’s calling in my life.
- Romans 12:2 states, Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Am I doing this? Is my mind being renewed through Word and prayer on a daily basis? If so, I can more easily trust my desires.
- Do I have the spiritual gifts and skills to do the thing I am feeling called to? Would this vocation be life-giving or draining?
- What do the people who know me the best say about this calling in my life?
It is that easy for me. I have made quite a few life-changing decisions based on this formula, and so far it has worked every time. Now, when I say worked, that does not mean it has been easy. In fact, these are the hardest things I have done with my life, but I still believe I was called.
I think our underlying problem with “calling” is that functionally, we still believe we are supposed to be happy. Theologically, we know that to be a Christian means to suffer, but as we live out our daily lives, we are surprised by suffering—especially when suffering comes from a decision we made based on a sense of God’s calling.
For example, I feel sure in my calling as a global worker in Senegal. There are two reasons I know this: He keeps showing up and sustaining me there, and He continues to transform me into the likeness of His Son. That is my deepest desire: to know God and to look like His Son. However, it is the hardest thing I have done. I do not really like living there, and I often feel lonely. I miss the United States, my family, and my friends.
Recently I had lunch with a friend who had two very good options in front of her. One was to go to the field, and one was to stay and be a part of a great company—enabling her family to send many global workers to the field. She could not sense what the Lord was calling her to do. At the end of our time together I said, “Just do the next thing. If you are not sure what to do, just take the next step in one direction.” She did exactly that. She took one step and then another. The decision became very clear. So did the calling.
Question to consider: How have you seen God confirm your calling as you “take the next step”?