At Work

Finding Your Purpose at the Intersection of Design, Desire, and Demand

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Over the last 40 years, I have had a rather unique journey, with three distinct career paths in the fields of math education, ministry, and the military. I deeply understand what a heart-wrenching spiritual journey this can be. But I also truly know the depth of meaning of the words of the old hymn: “Great is thy faithfulness, Oh God, my Father.”

In a previous post, I shared some general principles for seeking first the kingdom of God in finding your calling or vocation. Here, I will address the topic of pursuing and finding a job or career that fits, applicable for both young Christians who are just getting started in their careers, as well as middle-aged believers who are struggling with where they have ended up.

Finding Your Purpose

The diagram below demonstrates wonderfully that one’s purpose may be found at the intersection of where a job or career we have meets all of the criteria: “You love it,” “The world needs it,” “You are paid for it,” and “You are great at it.”  It is where your passion, mission, vocation, and profession overlap.

Purpose Diagram

Although the diagram does not specifically mention God, I cannot help but see that it is full of biblical implications:

  • The top circle, “You love it”, for the Christian, is clearly impacted by the Lord. Psalm 37:4 states, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
  • The next circle to the right, “The world needs it” indicates a heart of compassion and mercy, which comes from God. The needs you see clearly may point to your calling.
  • The circle on the bottom, “You are paid for it”, echoes an understanding that it is God who meets our needs through reimbursement for our work. He will lead us to just the right job, at the right place, at the right time, for his glory.
  • The fourth circle on the left, “You are great at it” reminds me that God gives each of us talents, strengths, experiences, and successes so that we can use them to be a blessing to others, both inside and outside the walls of the church building.

I am fortunate to have had a handful of jobs in which I felt I had found my purpose: I loved doing it, I was good at it, people needed what I had to offer, and I received a decent paycheck. I know a handful of others who have had the same experience. But before looking at personal examples of finding purpose, let’s consider a couple biblical examples:

  • Joseph: God gave him much success in his duties as a slave, a prisoner, and as second in command in Egypt (Ex. 39).
  • Bezalel and Oholiab: These men are two little-known construction workers from the book of Exodus who oversaw the building of the Tabernacle. They were filled with the Spirit and had the required skills, abilities, and knowledge in all kinds of crafts to make everything according to detailed plans. These men discovered their purpose as they worked with a passion for what they did, fulfilled their mission, and found their calling in their profession (Ex. 36).

In my personal life, I have seen this diagram fleshed out in the lives of various people that I know and love. My wife is an amazing preschool teacher. I have a friend from high school who is a doctor and uses his medical skills and experience to serve in third-world countries. In my current position as a civilian working for the Army, I sense that I am serving exactly where God wants me to be. Each of us seems to have found our purpose, at least for now.

Finding a Job Where You Flourish

IFWE’s Flourishing video gives us a clear picture of someone who has found his purpose and truly understands God’s presence in his work. Since childhood, the man featured developed the interests, skills, aptitudes, abilities, and attitudes necessary to do motorcycle restoration work. He gives credit to God for designing him in this way. And as he does a job that he loves so well and meets people’s needs, he sees flourishing in his own life, which glorifies God.

I love his statement at the end: “We’re all broken and in need of a little restoration.” I think he clearly sees that his job gives him an opportunity to do the kind of work that God also does in the lives of each one his children—restoration.

Keep the Right Perspective on Finding Your Purpose

Although this motorcycle mechanic and many others feel their present job is a great fit, my wife recently reminded me that there are no perfect jobs; all jobs will have thorns and thistles. Sometimes we have to “gut it out” for a season until things improve or something better comes along. God will always deliver us, provide for us, and lead us where he wants us to go.

So, in closing, I have two cautions with regard to the diagram above. First, for someone who happens to have found his or her purpose because all the circles line up, it is easy to be prideful about what we believe we have accomplished. Beware of making an idol of your work.

Second, it can be difficult when someone who is in a job that seems to be a perfect fit senses that God is calling him or her to do something else. Just because we love what we do, we are good at it, the world needs it, and we are paid for it, doesn’t mean we will stay there forever. If our working conditions are not conducive to living a healthy, balanced life, in the long run, we may need to reevaluate. So, just as we might need to be willing to stay when things are really tough, we also might need to be willing to leave even when everything is going just fine.

Whether we are looking for our purpose or already in a job we love, we need to continue to seek God first and remain sensitive to his spirit and leading.

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Further readings on At Work

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