The past couple weeks or have been pretty chaotic. I’ve been busy at church, we went on an almost vacation over the holiday weekend to the lake, and I’ve had several assignments due at the same time. It all adds up to me not making time to write a little along the way like I should. But, this is a learning process, and hopefully no one is offended. Hopefully.
So, something that has been on my heart recently is career decisions/plans! (Ooh! Scary) I’m about to be a senior in college and I keep getting all these questions about what I want to do once I graduate. There is absolutely nothing wrong with people asking me, if I were them I’d ask me too; but, I think those same questions that are innocent and reasonable to someone who isn’t in college are sometimes the ones that strike fear into the heart of college students.
When confronted with those questions you need to have an answer because college is expensive, you’re putting forth a lot of effort to do well in your classes, and you should have a plan. Still, these questions can be nerve-wracking. What if someone thinks your plans are dumb? What if your plans are underdeveloped and too idealistic? What if you don’t really know and don’t have a plan in a conventional sense? *cue hair pulling and maybe some weeping and gnashing of teeth*
There is a lot of importance placed on choosing the right career, knowing that you’re going to bring in the money, having benefits, working somewhere where you have opportunities for promotion and a pay raise, all that jazz. You’ve really gotta nail this part down and then have some idea when you’re going to get engaged, plan the wedding, honeymoon, how long it’s going to be before you have those 2.5 children, how you’ll pay for their college and, by the way, how you’ve been saving up for your retirement (if you actually can retire) and obviously you’ve already got life insurance so your funeral doesn’t put those 2.5 kids and any resulting grandchildren into debt. That’s all by the time you’re in your early-twenties or so.
(Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration of the truth)
Even though these are important things, and often older adults and parents bring this up because they know it’s important to plan ahead, sometimes it can get a little overwhelming. Why are we so worried with planning out every detail of our life so quickly? No wonder so many people seem to be talking about having anxiety or depression these days. Typing all of that out makes my head spin. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big advocate for planning. I’m not really about the whole ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ life—I need at least a general outline of what’s going to happen. (A detailed bulleted itinerary for each day would be even better) Everything seems to be pressuring us—at any stage in life—to be superhuman and have everything secured firmly in place, which doesn’t leave much room to actually live life and make human mistakes.
Still, there’s another question that can cause even more worry when we’re in this mindset: what is God calling me to do?
I’m going to level with you and say that I have *some* idea—a very broad general idea—of what I want to do for my career, but when I think about that last question it really makes me worry that I don’t have it together.
How do we know what God is calling us to? And if we don’t get it right can we still pass “go,” collect our $200 and start back around the board? If we miss out on our ‘calling,’ because we’re human and prone to missing things or messing up, have we completely missed our purpose?
I think this is one area where it becomes a little clearer to me that there is a spiritual battle taking place around me. All of these worries make me feel so stuck, so inadequate, that it’s difficult to move. But, what does the enemy want? “To steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). And does instilling doubt about our future and what we should ‘really be doing’ for our career seem like a good strategy to steal our joy, kill our hopes, and destroy the opportunity for us to grow spiritually? Oh, yeah. When we have these doubts, and don’t deal with them properly, they strangle us.
When I am focused on ‘what I should know/have planned’ I get so bogged down with insecurity. It sucks the joy out of me. This comes when I have the “second thing first” like my pastor discussed on Sunday. Obviously, if we put the cart before the horse we can’t get very far, but the point he made during service was also that it can make us lose both the first and second things when we, say, put finding our career before our relationship with God (this was based on a quote by C.S. Lewis).
I really feel like this age group, from youth in middle school to people in college, is a group that the Devil targets a lot. When you look at how much that age group influences the world it seems like a strategic move to fill them with doubts about their own identity and purpose as they’re growing up and making critical decisions that impact the rest of their life. I know I hear a lot of comments about “well, when ‘real life’ hits you…’’ but that is so deceptive. These are often comments that are meant to be helpful, but this phrase can cause us to think that we have more time than we do, in a sense. ‘Real life’ is your entire life and everything we do matters. Yes, it’s different when you’re more dependent on adult help than later in life when you are an adult yourself, but we need to stop thinking that life ‘begins’ after school, after a certain age, when you get married, or after you get a good job.
We frequently see God going after young people in the Bible, and I don’t think I’ve read where He tells them “well, after you get this job…” or “once you’re this age…that’s when your ‘real life’ begins. You can hit me up then and we’ll chat about what I want you to do. Until then, enjoy hanging out!” No! Every aspect of our life has purpose and intention in God’s eyes. With Joseph, we see God using the abuse he took from his brothers, the way he was a slave, when he was thrown in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, etc. Every detail of his life was used for God’s glory and ultimately to save the Israelites from starving during the time of famine (Joseph’s story is in Genesis 37-50). What I mean is, when it comes to our purpose on this earth, as Christians, it is not tied to a career. Our purpose is something that is held in God’s hands and it’s not just one single thing. I’m sure Joseph thought his career was just going to involve herding sheep and managing his household and that was it. He sure had a shocking change of plans.
Even though it’s easy to get caught up in worries about what we should do for our career on this earth, that’s not going to change our ultimate purpose—like He tells Jeremiah, something God knew before we were ever born (Jeremiah 1:5).
What I believe is really important throughout our lives, and especially needs to be instilled in us from a young age regardless of religious beliefs, is that we need to be faithful in the little things. In addition to Joseph’s story, the Bible presents the parable of the “bags of gold” (it might be different depending on which version you’re reading) and describes that those who most pleased their master were the ones who were considerate in the way they dealt with investments of the “few things,” or in the ‘little’ things (Matthew 25:21). In the end, the master tells them because they were obedient with the ‘little’ things, he was going to put them in charge of “many” things (Matthew 25:21).
I think, when it comes to our careers, we can apply the same principle. This starts with the right focus: putting the first thing first and starting from a relationship with God. This should always be number one. That doesn’t mean we won’t mess up, but it does mean that we keep pressing on in always trying to make it our first focus (Philippians 3:12-4). When we do start with the right focus, everything else starts to fall into place.
For example: when we start with our relationship with God, when we’re disciplined in the ‘little things’ like consistently reading God’s word and spending time in prayer, it becomes easier to understand God’s will for our lives (…which can sometimes include career plans). I’m not going to claim that if we always read our bible and pray God is going to mark out our designated career with a big X, because I don’t think that’s so. What I am trying to say is that, through a relationship with God, it becomes easier to discern where God is working, and how we can best serve Him (Ephesians 5:8-17). Maybe the options for a career are still wide open, but our perspective changes from one of worry to one of trust, and maybe just that change in attitude can make it easier to see where our talents/gifts/abilities and our passions intersect so that we can seek out a place to work for God’s glory.
Sometimes we place so much importance on choosing the right career that we begin to think that there is only one job for us, and, if we miss it, we won’t be any good to anyone. Well, not only is this not true, the fact of the matter is that regardless of where you are career-wise God can use you. Be faithful in the little things and keep the first things first and the bigger and second things start to be added in as we continue on (Matthew 6:33-4).
Does this mean that we should not place any sense of urgency on searching for that place that God is calling us to? No. When you’re at a point in your life where you need to be concerned with choosing a career this should be something we prioritize to some extent. Big decisions like your career are something to take seriously and consider with prayer, fasting, and godly council from others, but, it starts with your relationship with God and not from a place of panic.
So, if you’re like me and at a point that you don’t have all your i’s dotted and t’s crossed on your career plans, remember to be faithful in the little things and that God has not forgotten the plans (notice the ‘s’ in plans!) He has for you.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” Philippians 1:6