Richard Leider and David Shapiro, in their book, Repacking Your Bags: Lighten Your Load for the Rest of Your Life, found that the number-one fear of most people is having lived a meaningless life.
They are not the only ones observing this trend. In a 2014 survey, the Barna Group reported that 75 percent of U.S. adults say they are looking for ways to live a more meaningful life. Only 40 percent of practicing Christians surveyed said they have a clear sense of God’s calling on their lives.
These numbers point to what Barna has termed “a revived quest for meaning.” Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be a fruitless quest. You can find your calling and live a meaningful life. The calling God places on your life reveals itself through prayer, reflection, and trusted input from friends and relatives.
Before you can discover your calling, it’s important to understand the idea of calling from a Christian perspective.
What Your Calling Is…And Isn’t
It’s easy to get confused about what “calling” means. It’s often mixed up with “job” or “career.” Calling is much more than a job or career. It embraces all of life. It is like an umbrella, covering the whole of life, and under which your job or career fits.
In his book The Call, Os Guinness distinguishes between two types of calling, primary and secondary. Our primary calling is to be followers of Christ. Stemming from this primary call to Christ are what Guinness refers to as secondary callings. These callings are what we are to do with our lives. Our obedience to our primary calling can be seen working itself out in four distinct ways.
The Call to Family
We are called to be a part of our human family: brother, sister, son, daughter, father, and mother. This call has its basis in Genesis 1:28, known as the cultural mandate: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it…” The family is one way we fill the earth with the image of God, thus fulfilling the cultural mandate.
In his book God at Work, Gene Veith expands on this call to family, saying, “Every Christian—indeed, every human being—has been called by God into a family….The family is the most basic of all vocations, the one in which God’s creative power and his providential care are most dramatically conveyed through human beings.”
The Call to Church
All members of the church possess spiritual gifts, natural gifts, and abilities. We are called to use these gifts in service within the church to build up the body of Christ and carry out its purpose in the world.
The diversity of gifts, each supporting the other, strengthens the whole church “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).
The Call to Community
The gospel commands us to serve God’s purposes in the world through civic, social, political, domestic, and ecclesiastical roles. We are to love God and our neighbor in the larger community beyond the church by engaging in justice and mercy as God leads us.
Tim Keller in his book Ministries of Mercy insists,
To say that evangelism can be done without also doing social concern is to forget that our goal is not individual ‘decisions’ but the bringing of all life and creation under the lordship of Christ, the kingdom of God.
The Call to Work
This is the call to God’s service in and through your work. The work of believers possesses a significance which goes far beyond the visible results of that work. The process of doing the work, as much as the results of that work, is significant to God. There is no distinction between spiritual and temporal, sacred and secular. All human work, however lowly, has the potential of glorifying God.
Work can be an act of praise. Work glorifies God, it serves the common good, and it is something through which human creativity expresses itself. Under this definition, you may have different careers and jobs at different points in your life, but your calling from God will stay constant.
Your job can change over time, but your calling remains constant because it’s who God created you to be. Rick Wellock, a director at the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation, offers the following insight on the “whole-life” definition of calling laid out above:
God’s will for your life is not a job. Rather, it’s being who you are, where you are, with who you are with, given the way you’re gifted and the way you’ve yielded those gifts.
In addition to pointing out that calling isn’t limited to your job, Wellock’s observation touches on another important truth: your calling isn’t something you figure out on your own.
There is no substitute for having a wise friend listen to you and reflect back like an accurate mirror what they see. This becomes clearer as you dive into how to find your calling.
Editor’s note: Continue reading about how to find your calling in Discover Your Calling, A Biblical Guide to Finding Your Calling, a free download from the IFWE bookstore.