Because of the nature of my role at 4word (a ministry to professional women), I spend a lot of time speaking to women about their calling. What I’ve discovered over the years is that many women have an incredibly difficult time discerning what that calling is. For these struggling women, certain myths about calling are getting in the way of discovering what God truly has for them. In order to move forward in one’s calling, it’s important to identify and remove those myths from the discernment process.
If you’re feeling lost trying to discern God’s calling for your life, consider these myths that may be tripping you up.
Myth #1: It’s About You
The process of discovering your calling may necessitate some serious self-reflection, but make no mistake: It’s not really about you. Calling is not about self-fulfillment. Calling is submission to and fulfillment of God’s will for your life. Many people experience a special sense of satisfaction that comes from exercising their God-given gifts, talents, and passions, but that sense of fulfillment is a byproduct of being in God’s will, not the goal.
To discern what God’s will may be, you do need to look inward. You must seek to “know yourself” in order to discover God’s unique creation in you. But you are not a perfect interpreter of God’s work. And so you must also look outward, pouring into your relationship with God through prayer, Bible study, and communion with other believers. You need to cultivate deep relationships with peers and mentors who can enter into prayer with you and speak truth into your life.
Myth #2: If It’s Uncomfortable, It Can’t Be Your Calling
Figuring out your calling isn’t an instant ticket to a smooth life and career. Knowing what you are meant to be doing is really just the beginning of what may be a long and arduous journey of hardship and defeat. Some of the most successful, inspired people throughout history have weathered crushing failures in pursuit of their paths.
For most of my career, I was called to the business world. I felt confident about that calling, but certainly not always comfortable. I faced plenty of hardships and failures at work and in my personal life. These challenges helped me grow and learn more about God and more about how God created me to serve him, eventually leading me to start 4word for working Christian women. And even in this season, God continues to challenge me and stretch me beyond my comfort zone.
Even the most decisive calling might not feel good at all. Your calling could be a stretch assignment. Moses is a great biblical example: He had no doubt about what God wanted him to do. In Exodus 3, God spoke to Moses through the burning bush, giving him clear marching orders about his next steps.
Isn’t this what we all kind of wish for when we’re searching for our calling?
But Moses’ calling didn’t sound all that great to him: “But who am I that I should go?” Moses questioned God, voicing the fear, I’m not important enough. But God answered, “I will be with you.” Then in chapter four, Moses continued pressing back, asking, “What if they do not believe me?” I’m not impressive enough! In response, God provided him with miraculous signs. But it still wasn’t enough for Moses, who came back with the worry, “But I am slow of speech and tongue.” I don’t know what to say. God assured Moses that he would speak through him.
Moses was called to a task God designed for him, but it clearly didn’t feel good. He tried every way he could think of to convince God that he was the wrong man for the job, and then finally, when that didn’t work, he came right out and asked God to “please send someone else.”
In pursuit of your calling, you might just find yourself asking God the same thing. But discomfort doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re on the wrong path.
Myth #3: Choosing Wrong Can Thwart God’s Will
I know women (and men too) who seem to agonize endlessly over every major choice in their lives, calling included, because they’re afraid of choosing wrongly. It’s good to want to make the best choice you can, but at some point you just need to make a choice and go from there. If you find yourself worrying excessively about your calling, ask yourself whether this is really about discerning God’s will or whether you may be trying to control God’s will.
Your choices are important, but no choice you can make is outside of God’s sovereignty. And even if you choose “right,” you don’t know where that path ultimately leads. If you had asked me 20 or 30 years ago where I would end up, I never would have foreseen the course my life would take. From losing a “dream job” at the top of my corporate game, to launching a nonprofit, let alone running it full time, I now look back and am just amazed by God’s providence over all of it.
Myth #4: Your Calling Is Settled
Discovering your calling isn’t something you do once, or even twice. It’s not something you get to check off of a list and move on from. The life of a Christian entails a constant process of discovering your calling. Just because God has called you to a particular purpose at a particular time doesn’t mean his plans for you are static.
Looking at my own life, I can see God shaping and shifting my calling over the years. First, my calling was to be a daughter who helped her parents run a farm and positively affect my coworkers, friends, and fellow students. Then, I was called to develop professionally. God continued to call and lead me through the end of my first marriage and into my remarriage. Through this journey, God called me to be a mother to children and stepchildren. Next, my calling was to start 4word, shifting my career more toward consulting and board membership as my kids started to “leave the nest.” And finally, my current chapter, working with 4word full time, keeping up with corporate board work, and caring for my adult daughter Annie as she fights a debilitating illness. In every phase my calling has looked and felt different, but God has been a consistent foundation throughout.
Who knows what the next chapter of life will bring?
Everyone’s calling is going to look different—and each season will bring a new process of discernment. Just remember, God is in control. He loves you and me, and his will for us will always bring us closer to him. May you begin your discernment journey with courage and humility.