Women & Work

How to Discover Your Calling

When I got serious about following the Lord in my late twenties, I started to wonder how my vocational interests and ambitions could best serve the kingdom of God. I read books, listened to speakers, and followed leaders on social media, keeping my ear tuned to the theme of “calling.” Over time, my curiosity crystallized into one strategic question: How do we, as Christian women, discover our vocational calling?

As has already been discussed here, our vocational callings are secondary to our primary calling to salvation and discipleship. Anything we do here on this temporary plane will be a kind of training for the eternal kingdom to come; our everyday work is a means to learn to listen to the voice of the Spirit of God and obey as He calls. But there may come a time after you’ve surrendered your life to Christ’s leadership that you start asking questions like, ‘What’s next?’ ‘Where are we going, Lord?’ ‘Where would you like me to serve?’ ‘How can I best be used for your kingdom?’ or something similar. It’s okay if this season of asking is a long one. Scripture gives us multiple examples of this season of waiting: the Apostle Paul spent three years after his conversion (Gal. 1:11-12, 18) waiting on the Lord to commission him to his ministry. David was anointed King as a boy but didn’t sit on the throne until he was thirty. Abraham walked righteously his whole life and didn’t see the fruit of the promise until he was ninety. These are a few examples of believers who spent years walking in faithful obedience to God, learning to understand His word and what pleases Him, before stepping into their vocational ministry or calling. Waiting is not a waste of time; it allows us to nurture love, gain maturity, and hone our skills.

Discovering your calling might feel like trying to solve a mystery, but it doesn’t have to–a path is already mapped out for us to follow. Let’s look at the multi-faceted approach to discerning our calling through four main pillars: Desire, Counsel, Decision, and Opportunity.*

Desire
Did you know God had a distinct purpose in mind when he made you? We are each created with a unique blend of talents, skills, and interests, and we should notice the particular desires of our hearts in pursuit of our calling. We can begin our journey with a bit of self-reflection and ask, “What am I interested in?” What are you curious about? What questions do you ask that others don’t? What stirs your creativity? The answers to these questions will give clues to where your desire lies.

Like a fenced green pasture for wandering sheep, we need the boundaries of scripture to help us traverse the freedom we have been granted and wisely discern our desires. The Apostle Paul emphasizes the freedom we have as Christians: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). If our desires are not causing division among the believers or seeking our personal advantage, we can do anything to the glory of God.

Counsel
Next, we take in the wise counsel of others. At different points in my vocational life, I’ve received timely advice from a professor, my boss, a close friend, and my husband. They each spoke into my situation, and their words of wisdom helped propel me to the next phase of discovering my vocational calling. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15). Wise counsel can come from a variety of sources, be it our parents, spouse, pastor, friend, or even an expert in the vocational field of our interest. Seeking wise counsel doesn’t mean we have to share our deepest desires with everyone we come across or overly consider the opinions of others; however, we will be better off in the long run to heed the encouragement or warning from those who love and know us best. Prayerfully trust the Holy Spirit to lead you to the right person (or people) for advice.

Decision
Eventually, there will come a point of decision or a cross in the road, and we will need to rely on sound judgment. Acts 15:22-29 relays an event when the early church chose two men to go with Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journey. The scripture emphasizes no less than three times, “for it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” that this particular decision was made. In our pursuit of calling, we may have clues as to what kind of work will best suit us; we may also have sound counsel from a trusted source. At this juncture, it will be important to lean into the discernment of the Holy Spirit to know if a direction does, in fact, “seem good to us,” and then we will have to decide. For me, it was applying to an online education program. The action was taken–and now, I must wait for the blessing of the Lord through acceptance to the program and for financial provision.

A note on decision-making: particularly as women, it is prudent to consider the season of life we find ourselves in and let this vital indicator guide our decision-making. Women bear the unique responsibility of taking our physical bodies into consideration in different ways than men when considering a career. There are realities to fertility, menopause, and a whole host of bodily considerations in between. When faced with uncertainty in your career due to a number of these issues, press into the Holy Spirit and seek wisdom.

Opportunity
Finally, we can do nothing without the providential hand of God–if He is calling us to this work, He will make the way. For some of us, this can be the most challenging pillar to accept because we can’t “make it happen” ourselves. As disciples, we must allow God to go before us and open the door of opportunity. Again, we see an example in Paul’s vocational life when the Lord prevented him from going into a particular area to take the gospel (Acts 16:6-7). Paul’s motives were right, and he may have even had sound counsel, but the Lord Himself prevented Paul’s decision to take the ministry to that area at that time. The world may tempt us with the promise of “manifesting” our destinies or push the seemingly innocuous hustle culture to try and create the circumstances of our success. Don’t be deceived along this line, friends–we are not in the executive seat of our lives. We must cultivate a submissive spirit to the Lord Jesus as He leads us and trust that His will and way are best. 

I’ve found that as I trust the Lord to open the door and not try to do it in my strength, His opportunities are always better than anything I could have created. He knows what will be the best-suited, most life-giving work because He created us, and He loves us! Trust His leadership in your life. Earnestly seek to know Him, to walk in His ways, and to seek His purpose for your life. Take Paul’s words deep in your hearts and be encouraged, “…we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

I pray that each of us will be discerning as we pursue our vocational callings and reap a harvest of life as a result. 

*Special thanks to Dr. Bruce Waltke’s four-part structure via his testimony of discovering his own vocational calling. TheosU, “Introduction to the Old Testament,” https://my.theosu.ca/programs/introduction-to-the-old-testament, accessed 2/22/24.

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