How do we find our purpose and a job where we flourish? Last week, Russell Gehrlein shared about how to seek first God’s kingdom and find our calling as we pursue a new job or career. Today, Russell continues with Part 2 in his series on ‘Seeking a New Job or Career’. This post is about how we can truly flourish wherever He is calling us.
This guest post first appeared here on his blog. It was later included in his book, Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession published by WestBow Press in 2018. We recommend you this book for its many gems of insight into how our faith applies to work.
This subject is near and dear to my heart. Over the last 40 years, I have prayed and looked for work, sought out and found just the right job. I have had a rather unique journey, with three distinct career paths in the fields of math education, ministry, and the military. We are empty-nesters and have watched our own children start their careers. I deeply understand how much of 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.”
In my first post, I shared some general principles with respect to seeking first the kingdom of God and finding your calling or vocation. Here, I will continue to share a little wisdom on the topic of pursuing and finding a job or career that fits. This applies to young Christians just getting started in their careers, as well as middle-aged believers who are struggling with where they have ended up.
Finding Your Purpose
I found this diagram posted on the We Are Teachers Facebook page in March 2015. I think it is absolutely brilliant. It graphically demonstrates that one’s purpose may be found at the intersection of where a job or career we have meets all of these criteria: you love it, the world needs it, you are paid for it, and you are great at it. It is where passion, mission, vocation, and profession overlap.
Although the diagram you see does not explicitly mention God anywhere, I cannot help but see that it is full of biblical implications throughout:
- 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 that 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. 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 have been fortunate to find a handful of jobs where I felt I had found my purpose. I loved doing it, was good at it, offered something people need, and received a decent paycheck. I know a handful of others who have had the same experience.
Biblical and Personal Examples
Before I give mention a few personal examples of those who seem to illustrate this well, perhaps I could share a couple of biblical illustrations first.
The Bible paints a clear picture of a lot of successful workers. Joseph comes to my mind. God gave him much success as a slave, as a prisoner, and as second-in-command in Egypt. In the book of Exodus, we meet a man named Bezalel and his partner Oholiab, construction workers 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.
As I mentioned, I have seen this diagram fleshed out in 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. He uses his medical skills and experience to serve in third-world countries. In my current position as a Department of the Army civilian, 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
Let me share a powerful two-minute video I found on the Faith, Work & Economics website. It gives us a clear picture of someone who has found his purpose and truly understands God’s presence in his work. This guy is someone who has developed the interests, skills, aptitudes, abilities, and attitudes necessary to do this kind of work. He gives credit to God for designing him in this way. As he does this job that he loves so well, and as he meets people’s needs, his own life flourishes.
Please take two minutes to watch it and be inspired.
I love his last statement at the end: “We’re all broken and in need of a little restoration.”
This guy 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 of His children – restoration. I imagine this understanding motivates him to get up each morning and go to work, knowing that he will get to experience being a co-worker with God every day.
We’re all broken, in need of a little restoration… When we figure out what we are made for, how we fit into God’s big picture of restoration, that’s when we truly flourish.Motorcycle mechanic
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 just 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.
In closing, I have two concerns about this model 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. Along this line, my son has recently pointed out how easy it is to make an idol of our work. That will be a topic for another blog in the near future.
Second, it can be difficult when someone in a seemingly ‘perfect’ job, senses that God is calling him or her to do something else. Just because we love what we do, are good at it, the world needs it, and we are paid for it, doesn’t mean we need to 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.
We must continue to seek God first and remain sensitive to His Spirit. This may mean being willing to stay when everything is going rough, and to leave even when everything is going just fine.
Here is a link to a video where I shared this with a college audience two years ago:
About the Writer
Russ Gehrlein is currently working for the U.S. Army at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He taught high school math and science before serving more than 20 years of active duty in the army. He earned a MA from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. Russ blogs regularly and is the author of Immanuel Labor—God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work. He and his wife have three children and five grandchildren.
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This article is part of a series of posts about calling and work. Check out the other articles that explore how we can live out our calling in the world of work:
- How to Find Your Calling
- How Job Crafting Transform Your Work into Calling
- Why Do We Work – Job, Career, or Calling?
Here are some helpful reviews and resources:
- ‘Love Your Work’ by Robert Dickie
- ‘Mere Christians’ Podcast by Jordan Raynor
- ‘Master of One’ by Jordan Raynor
- Theology of Work Project
Thoughts or feedback? Feel free to drop in your comment below!