I know of many people who are so committed to living out God’s specific will for their life that it hinders them. They have their dream job in mind and they are convinced that because God gave them that desire, that’s where they are supposed to be. As a result, they consider the jobs they have leading up to the dream job a waste of time and insignificant.
This is not uncommon. In fact, I was—and sometimes still am—one of those people. I was so focused on God’s calling for my life that I often missed where he was calling me to be in that moment in life.
Finding Meaning in Meandering
I couldn’t find full-time work for three years after college. I worked a variety of jobs in construction, at nonprofits, and at unpaid internships prior to the full-time job I have now. During that time, my conviction that I was called to do something else gave me an attitude of discontent that made those roles—jobs to which God had called me—far less impactful than they could have been. I didn’t want to be where I was, so I didn’t put in my best effort. I considered clients and coworkers little more than references I could use to get me to my dream job.
I am now an assistant at a senior center offering art and exercise classes, guest lectures, computer education, and a common space for card games and socializing. I love providing these services, but the community I ultimately feel called to support is people with intellectual disabilities. Yet God, in his sovereignty, has placed me here, with senior citizens.
Hindsight can illuminate some of God’s purposes for times that we may have thought were meaningless. My wife and I had to move states for my current job and, with that, we joined a group of God-fearing friends and a solid church—a grounding and life-giving community that we had difficulty finding in my hometown. If I worked somewhere else, I may have been laid off when the pandemic started; instead, my employer allowed us to work from home. Reflecting on God’s provision in my past has given me confidence in his promise-keeping and provision for the future.
His (Not So) Mysterious Ways
In stages of life where God does things differently than we would, we must trust God, knowing his greatest purpose is to bring glory to himself. Although our jobs may have us licking envelopes when we want to be making speeches, or send us to the Midwest when we think we should be in the Middle East, we can remember Colossians 3:23-24:
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (ESV)
To hold discontent or bitterness about our situation rejects the authority God has over us, making our lives and our jobs about ourselves. If we are loving God and keeping his commandments (John 14:15), we are in the place he wants us to be.
Perhaps you are in a season of discontent in your current job. Know this: God knows every hair on your head. He has not misplaced you.
It’s Not About Me
Generally, the more jobs you’ve had, the more people you’ve worked with and served. Each of them matter to God. C.S. Lewis starkly highlights the eternal consequences of our interactions with people.
All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to [heaven or hell]. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities… that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.
This brings new meaning and importance to your work, even if it seems like it’s not the job you’re supposed to be in. To spend so much time working alongside people and not allowing your work and speech to bring them closer to knowing God is direct disobedience to him. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminds us that we are lights to the world. He charges us with letting our good deeds shine so unbelievers will glorify God the Father (Matt 5:14-16).
The Ultimate Career Goal
It is not the content of our output but the heart attitude we have while working that matters to God (Hos 6:6). There is fundamentally no difference between the work of an Old Testament prophet or a modern-day accountant if both are equally acting in obedience to God in their work. All types of work are necessary and valuable. A culture requires each person’s unique skill set and interests to provide goods and services to the community. God gifted each person with complementary abilities so that the body of Christ can glorify the Father efficiently and thoroughly.
In our uniqueness, we have desires that will lead us to a job where we are best suited. There will be good days and bad days, each filled with tasks that keep our attention and tasks that are mind-numbing. Serve God where he has you. If he moves you to a new place and season in your career, serve him just as faithfully there.
Ultimately, God’s will for you is to love him and love others (Matt 22:37-40). This is true at home and at work. God is our ultimate authority. Our bosses are only there because God put them there (John 19:10-11). Likewise, we are in our current job because of God’s orchestration. Do not be concerned about the what-ifs and the endless possibilities you have in life. His ultimate purpose is to glorify himself. So long as you are glorifying God where you are, you are where he wants you.
If we strive for a dream job for our own sake, thinking we will only be satisfied once we’ve arrived at this “final stage” of service to God, we miss out on where he has us on the way. Paul learned contentment in every situation (Phil 4:11-13). We should be able to do the same.