Editor’s Note: Russell Gehrlein was a guest on the radio program, Community Bridge, a Family Radio Network program and podcast on January 4, 2021. Below is a partial transcript of that conversation, which you can listen to in its entirety here. We encourage you to subscribe to the show on whichever platform you get your podcasts!
Understanding Career Chapters
JENNY BURKHISER (host): A recent poll revealed almost half of high school students don’t know what they want to do after they graduate. So many college students, over half, would go back and change their major if they could. We’re hearing that millennials are likely to change their jobs four times in their first decade out of college. So today’s college grads won’t just change jobs, but often switch into entirely different industries. What are you seeing out there today Russ?
RUSSELL GEHRLEIN: I interact with a lot of people, and I think some of the same things you mentioned. I’ve heard some of those statistics that a person is going to change careers seven to ten times in their lifetime. It’s not just different jobs in another organization or climbing up the corporate ladder—it’s completely different industries like you say.
You don’t know what you just don’t know. In your late teens and early twenties, you’re just trying to figure this out. In my own life, I’ve had three major chapters in my own life. When I first graduated from high school, went to college and I felt called to be a math teacher. And I did that for a couple of years.
Then I felt a pull to ministry and went to seminary. A baby came along and my wife couldn’t put me through, so I had to do another thing and I joined the military. That was a temporary gig, I thought, and I’m still doing that 35+ years later!
So I think everybody wants to do something meaningful with their lives. They’re trying to figure it out. And it is hard. A lot of times Christians are struggling with this because they’re just not taught from church what the bible says about the value of ordinary work and how to find work that is meaningful.
Consequences of Poor Career Planning
BURKHISER: Russ, how can poor career planning affect us? How much of where we’re at is related to our planning or lack thereof?
GEHRLEIN: That’s a good question. I think poor planning does have detrimental effects. Sometimes people are unprepared or don’t have the resources. They don’t have the support systems like Mom and Dad who are around to guide them through that process, or guidance counselors. They just don’t flat out know what they want to do, and they graduate and don’t have a plan.
So I think that certainly that kind of long term not planning, just kind of settling, or failing to launch is going to have a detrimental effect on someone’s self-esteem. Feeling that they are not living up to their potential, could easily lead to depression and anger, frustration, as well as the draining of financial resources—from not only Mom and Dad, or Grandma and Grandpa, but possibly church agencies and public assistance. All because that person didn’t pursue what they should have pursued to become independent and productive.
Seeking God First with Your Career
BURKHISER: How can having a good relationship with God help as we’re trying to find that right career?
GEHRLEIN: Yes, that’s a key element I’ve found. I always come back to the attributes of God, the character of God. And I know that God is a loving God. He is interested in leading his children even more than we are. I believe that when we maintain that relationship with God through prayer, and Bible study, and fellowship with others in a church in the way in which the Bible describes…we’re able to be receptive to God’s guidance.
Jesus told his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount, “Seek first his kingdom and righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” And that was recorded in Matthew 6:33 and Luke 12:31.
So what does that look like, seeking first and all these things? Jesus, in context there, was talking about how God meets the basic needs: food and clothing. Don’t worry about your food. Don’t worry about your clothing. God is going to provide. And how does he normally provide? It’s through our jobs.
Jobs provide the money to buy the food and clothing that we need. And God clearly provides that. So I think I see the connection there, a subtle one, between seeking God first and finding a job and finding the right job.
My experience has told me that when we begin to understand and apply what the Bible teaches about work and finding God’s guidance as we pursue our careers, we can experience this peace that Paul talks about, the peace that “passes understanding,” during this normal anxiety producing process.
We know that the Bible teaches that he has good plans for us and that he has already been preparing us our entire lives for meaningful employment through the skills and interests and abilities that he has placed in us, even from birth, even from before birth.
He’s going to lead us where he needs us and in his time. And then our job becomes a spiritual journey that will deepen our faith as we see God lead and provide.
Editor’s Note: A limited number of Russell’s book, Immanuel Labor—God’s Presence in Our Profession, are available in our bookstore. Save $5 off the regular price, while supplies last!