What is Your “Calling”?


My journal from 2005

I arrived home and ran over to the table, seeing my new shipment of books had arrived. Andy Stanley’s newest book, Deep and Wide, was inside the package. I started reading.

By chapter two, I was crying. We’ll save that story for another blog post—it’s a hard back story to tell and when I write the post, I’ll stress out all day that you know so much about me. And Michael will continue to remind me I’m listening to God and doing what He’s asked me/called me to do: WRITE.

Andy mentions briefly that while he was in college many of his friends felt “called” into ministry. He waited and waited for God to tell him his ‘calling’, but never heard anything. He wanted to go into ministry, thought he had the gifts and skills to do a great job as a pastor, but what exactly was God’s say in the matter? After some time, he asked his dad,

“Does a person have to be ‘called’ into ministry, or can he just volunteer?”

I love that even Andy Stanley wasn’t clear from the beginning how God wanted to use him. Now, if you know a thing or two about Stanley—he’s ‘successful’ in pastor terms.  Each Sunday more than 33,000 people attend in addition to the 15,000 people who attend one of the partner churches he planted. Some of his messages have altered the course of my life. Impressive from someone who God didn’t speak too clearly at the beginning.

I started wondering about this phrase we as Christians like to throw around, “What are you called to do?” I talked with a friend recently and she was a little distraught because she’d been asking God consistently how He wanted to use her, what He wanted her to do with her life, along with another host of good questions—but felt completely directionless. She was a new Christian and wanted to serve God with her gifts & talents, not “waste her life” as Piper would say, but all her prayers seem to go unanswered.

A few questions I’ve asked (and maybe you’ve asked, too):

  1.  Is a ministry job a higher calling than a corporate one?
  2. Does God call people to do things that fit within their skill set to a certain extent or something that doesn’t come as naturally so we learn rely on Him?
  3. If I go down a career path or pursue a hobby on the side of my 9-5 (writing, singing, speaking, etc.)—and I am unsuccessful—does that mean I misheard God?
  4. Does everyone have one ‘calling’? Can it change over time?

I’ve been a missionary and now I’m a book marketer. In certain periods of my life, I told someone about the love of Jesus every.single.day and in other times, I went a year without sharing. I was let go from my mission’s team (i.e. they didn’t think I was qualified), so I’ve been called to do pursue paths that seemed like I misheard God…but then this happened. If you  asked me three years ago what I was called to do with my life? I would have responded, “make Jesus real to the lives of hurting women in China”. Today?

My “calling” is to use allow the healing power of Christ to flow through my writing into the lives and relationships of  hurting, broken women.

What God wants for your life will look differently for every one of you. The Bible is full of examples of men and women who contradict any definitive statements about what God is and isn’t leading your life.

Ask yourself, “What am I most afraid God will call me to do?” to sort through any fear you may have about stepping into the next stage of your story. Then ask, “How can I serve in a way that no one else can?” God has a unique story to tell through your life—that can’t be told through anyone else’s. Over time, if your answer still isn’t clear choose what you believe in your heart is a great path and just volunteer.

Have you had trouble discerning what God has called you to do? If you know, what did that process look like?

Helpful books on finding your place in God’s story:

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14 Responses to “What is Your “Calling”?”
  1. Maggie says:

    I know that only at 20 and not knowing the Lord for too long I know I’m just putting my expectations at a higher level than they should, but I have no idea what God wants me to do. I thought that things would be a little bit better since school has started, but I hate my classes but it’s too late to switch and switch majors. I keep getting conflicting messages from people. People think that I’m Godly, but really I’m drowning.

    I am lost. And The only “goal” I have now is just to survive the quarter. To survive the rest of college and jump into a job to make a living. I don’t even know what yet because everything that once seemed to intrigue me doesn’t anymore, and I would have to go to grad school. I AM SICK OF SCHOOL. But I don’t feel called to ministry in any sense either.

    I’m afraid that God will never tell me what I need to do and that I end up wasting my life.

    • karen says:

      Dear Maggie,
      You sound very stressed. I hear you.

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Hi Maggie, I so know where you are coming from. If you are committed to God, you will not waste your life. He will lead you and when you feel like He’s not speaking, do something! Look at what Andrea wrote above-might be helpful:) We are not called to live in fear, so fear not-you’re on the right track.

      Also, I can relate EXACTLY to that feeling of “people think I’m Godly, but really I’m drowning.” I’d love to blog about this with your permission. Because I think we as Christians feel that way A LOT. Will you email me?

  2. karen says:

    Hi Ruthie,
    Thanks for another pertinant message. I am 58 and about 8 years ago God started working and healing in my life- and my passion has been to do almost the same as your ‘calling’. Just as God has helped heal me by other women who have been through healing also. I had never really thought about my life in that term of ‘calling’ – I just knew as I was progressing that I started helping other women by sharing my story. Currently I am in a spot where I could choose to become a small group leader again after a year off when I changed churches [ my new church has asked me ] but since I am new there I am not sure if they are really aware of what I am really passionate about! So that is where I haven’t specifically heard from God as to how to proceed. I really like the idea of volunteering if I don’t know I have a calling. God can take care of that- if I fail, I fail. And maybe know more than I did if I didn’t try!

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Hi Karen,

      Wow. I love that God has healed you and started to work in your heart to use your story to bring healing to others. It’s really the most beautiful way we are used to further the Kingdom.


      Thanks for sharing! Anyone else feel like God wants to use their story to bring healing to others?

  3. Oh girl, if you could see all of the pros and cons lists I’ve made, read all my journal entries, hear all of the conversations I’ve had in attempts to discern God’s calling on my life, you would probably be seriously concerned, ha! My tendency is to analyze everything to death. But I am slowly beginning to realize that while I do believe God has plans for me, I don’t think I can thwart those plans by deciding to do something that I may not be meant to do my entire life. I’m finally feeling freedom to just try different things and remain prayerful about them: jobs, relationships, moves, trips-it’s not always a matter of right and wrong and is more often a matter of acting instead of spending a decade searching for my calling or waiting on it.

    Oswald Chambers said something in My Utmost for His Highest that has stuck with me for years. Very paraphrased: “Stop waiting for God to ‘call’ you to do something; you’ve already been called, so just go.”

  4. Angela says:

    What a great blog. I especially was struck by the part of the line “the next stage of your story” and “God has a unique story to tell through your life—that can’t be told through anyone else’s.” For some one who has measured life and serving God by what I do, it has been a hard adjustment when I had to give up my work (which I saw as a ministry) because of MS. It’s been 6 years now and I still don’t have a satisfactory to me, answer about what is God’s purpose for my life now. I’m learning it has a lot to do with just “being”. Being in his presence, being in the lives of others and being who I am. Reading your blog I wonder now if my being is allowing God to tell the story of his faithfulness and grace that has been and continues to be so evident in my life. It’s not the way I would do it. I always thought I would be a speaker or something. I still do some volunteer work in my church but active leadership and ministry is hardly possible anymore. See I’m back on the “doing” to justify all the time I spend resting. Thank you for being faithful to God’s calling in your life to minister to through your writing.

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Oh Angela. Sounds like you’re in a rough season…I’m so sorry. It can be so confusing when what we want for our lives, isn’t what God wants. It’s easy to think we know better, or we know what would ‘most’ glorify God, isn’t it? I know I’ve fallen into that trap, time and time again.

      You never know, though. All this time you’re spending resting may be preparing you for a greater role in His story than you could ever imagine. Remember, Moses? He was a shepherd for 40, maybe even 80 years, before God used him to bring the Israelites out of Egypt! That’s a lot of days just sitting around watching sheep:)

  5. Brianna says:

    I loved this. Tells me I am not alone with these questions. I have a journal entry so similar to yours. I am sending this to other women in my life with the same thoughts! Thank you for posting!

  6. April says:

    I think this is an issue so many of us deal with. I have read (and re-read several more times) a book that has really encouraged me in this area. It is called “Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will,” by Kevin DeYoung. It is all about decision making when we feel like we’ve heard no real and/or specific direction from God. It has helped bring me to a place where I can realize that my life will not be shattered because I make one wrong decision and ruin everything for God. He really is in control and much of the time He is giving us the freedom to just get out there and do something… whatever it is {as long as it is not an active pursuit in sin}.

    I have also been convicted a lot about this idea that our vocation is our calling. Or that what I do to make money is the definition of who I am or what I stand for. In some people’s lives, their calling does become their vocation, but I think for many {often, most} of us we may never get paid to do the things we feel really passionate about. They may just be an area where we volunteer or a “hobby.” At least for me, this can be very frustrating and can leave me feeling like I’m “doing nothing with my life.” But the reality is that how we live our lives and the ways we choose to spend our time and energies and giftings (both in whatever workplace we find ourselves AND outside of it) are just as important and real whether we’re getting paid for it or not. Along this vein, I recently read an incredible and encouraging article from Relevant Magazine entitled, “The Question We Should Never Let Make or Break Us.” Here is the link… http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/career-money/question-we-should-never-let-make-or-break-us … reminds me a lot of so many of the things you have posted as well.

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Hi April,

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment! I am going to have to check out that book.

      I think the fact that we don’t get paid to pursue our ‘calling’ is often the hardest part. I am constantly struggling to find enough hours in the day/week to write, because as most of us do, I have a full-time, demanding job. I have to cut out other things from my life-small groups, outings with friends, daily exercise…to squeeze everything in.

      Anyways, thanks for sharing and I wish you the best on your journey to follow Christ wherever He leads!

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