7 Signs You Have Found Your Calling
Sometimes figuring out your calling is not as simple as you’d like. Sure, we all want to do work that matters, to know we are accomplishing what God created us to do. But the truth is that discovering your life’s work is a challenging journey full of twists and turns. Along the way, you might need help knowing where you are and how far you have left to go.
Here are seven signs you’ve found your calling:
1. It’s familiar (but not obvious).
You find your calling not by looking forward but by looking backward. Pay attention to the past — what you’ve experienced and learned about yourself — and it will inform your future. As author and activist Parker Palmer once wrote, “Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.”
2. It’s something other people see in you (that you might fail to recognize yourself).
Sometimes our vocations are most obvious to those who know us best. We cannot find a calling outside the context of community. Like the prophet Samuel, sometimes we are being called and aren’t even able to discern the voice. We need a mentor or a guide to help us. Sometimes, this comes in the form of friends, parents, or even a spouse. Other times, the person is a stranger. But the role of a guide is to help you see in yourself what you otherwise might miss.
3. It’s not easy (but parts of it may come naturally).
A calling requires practice. It must be difficult enough that not everyone can do it and that it can’t be mastered in a short amount of time. It took Abraham his entire life to master his calling of being the father of a new nation, and even then he didn’t fully complete it on his own. If the same isn’t true for you, then you’ve set your sights too low.
4. It requires trust (not clarity).
If your vocation is completely clear or spelled out for you, beware. Oswald Chambers, a prominent evangelist and teacher, wrote that if a person can explain exactly where and when she was called, then she probably wasn’t called at all. A calling requires trust — and clarity tends to come with action.
5. It’s full of failure (but success comes eventually).
If you think a calling guarantees success or safety, you’re wrong. Sometimes the things God calls us to are anything but safe. As theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” And in his case, he was correct — he died a Christian martyr. There will be times when we get our calling wrong or when it seems to change. But each pivot reveals a deeper truth about God and about us. Be flexible.
6. It’s not just one thing (it’s a few things).
A calling is more than just a job or a career track. It’s your whole life, and it tends to integrate into everything else that you do, not competing with but complementing your values and priorities. If a calling takes you away from your family or loved ones too much, it may be more of an addiction than a vocation.
7. It’s not just what you did (but what you leave behind).
A calling must be so big that you cannot complete it on your own in your lifetime. It should take your entire life to accomplish, and even then there will be unfinished work. If your vocation is not so large that it does not intimidate you a little, then you may be thinking too small.
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I used to think a calling was simple and easy. Now, I understand that it’s so much more. It will take my entire life to find my calling, but the destination will be worth the journey. May the same be true for you, as well.
Written by: Jeff Goins