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“I just want to know God’s calling for my life.”
Graduation is upon us, and I’ve heard so many people say that phrase so many times. And in a way, it’s a good thing: people honestly and wholeheartedly want to follow God’s lead. But there is also something wrong with this phrase; or rather, the idea behind it.
God probably has more than just one calling on your life.
We see this again and again in both the Bible and in the lives of everyone we know, but somehow it doesn’t seem to compute. God’s call for you today isn’t necessarily the same thing he called you to yesterday or what he’ll call you to tomorrow.
For a biblical example, let’s look at Joseph. Joseph was your average kid until God gave him a vision that all his brothers would bow down to him. His brothers didn’t like that very much, so they first decided to kill him, then they changed their mind and only sold him into slavery. Joseph was a slave for a while, and then he was falsely accused of trying to rape a woman and was thrown into prison. He was then a prisoner until he correctly interpreted the dream of Pharaoh and was made a high-ranking government official in Egypt.
Through all of these things, Joseph followed God where God led him. God led him to be a slave for a while. God led him to be a prisoner. God finally led him to be a ruler under Pharaoh. Being a ruler was not the only call God had for Joseph—slavery and prison weren’t accidental missteps along the road. No, they were God’s plan for Joseph. They were what God called him to at certain points in his life.
Even Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God went through such phases. He did not become a rabbi, a teacher, until he was 30. Before that, he was a carpenter; and that was what God had called him to for that time. Then he was a rabbi, then a martyr (though not merely a martyr, of course). He’s always been the Son, but his role among humanity changed as he worked out God’s plan.
God calls you to different things throughout your life. What God called you to do yesterday is not necessarily the same thing God called you to do today. And what God called you to do today isn’t necessarily the same thing God wants you to do tomorrow. And what God wants you to do tomorrow isn’t necessarily going to be the same thing God wants you to do for the rest of your life. God will call you to different things at different times.
I don’t know if I’ll always be a Chi Alpha missionary. But that’s where God has me now and for the foreseeable future. Just as I followed God’s leading to become a Chi Alpha missionary, so I continue to follow his lead as a missionary, and so I will follow his lead if he calls me to something else. Whatever God calls me to, I will follow his lead.
God also gives you options. Remember we follow a God who has sovereignly chosen to let us make choices. Not all of these choices are between good and evil, God’s will and sin.
Let’s take marriage as an example.
God doesn’t just have one person out there for you to marry. You have a part in choosing “the One,” too. There are many different people whom you could marry and have a successful marriage and be completely within God’s will. “The One” becomes the One when you choose that person.
And let us consider otherwise. What if God only has one person out there for you? How will you ever know who it is? Out of the three plus billion people of the opposite sex on the planet, how are you going to find that one person? God can guide you to that, true. But what if you’re wrong? By the time most people get married, they don’t have a well-developed sense of discernment. It’s hard to tell God’s leading from what you want; it’s easy to make a mistake. And if you make a mistake like that when marrying, the consequences are devastating. The idea that God only has one person out there with whom you can possibly marry and be in his will is terrifying!
As Diedra Romero of Relevant Magazine says, “If you are, in fact, walking down the one path God has laid out and no other path exists, you can easily derail God’s entire plan by making one small mistake. God’s provision suddenly depends on your ability to be good.… Walking with God suddenly becomes a multiple-choice test, and one wrong answer will wound irreparable damage.” (Read more here).
No, God doesn’t just have one person you could ever possibly marry and follow his will. God has options for you. Nor does God have just one thing you can do with your life. God has options for you. God’s salvation is a narrow path—only by Jesus may one be saved. But God’s leading, his direction for your life isn’t a narrow path but a landscape. Don’t apply Jesus’ imagery where it’s not intended.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t pursue God’s leading on your life. God’s leading is in a direction, it’s a landscape; but there are things that are not in that direction and are not in that landscape.
Going with the marriage example, there are people you very clearly should not marry. For example, people of your same sex—the Bible is very clear that they are not for you. Or non-believers: God wants his people to marry his people. And beyond biblical examples, there are some people whom it will become apparent—either blatantly obvious or through discernment over time—that they just are not for you. That’s okay.
There is very clearly a right and a wrong in choosing. All I’m saying is there isn’t only one right thing when God gives you choices. And sometimes, God does indeed only have one thing he wants you to do. If God has only one thing for you, that will become apparent; that’s okay, too.
When I was in college, I was a part of Air Force ROTC for a while. And the time came when I had to choose: would I commit to going through all of ROTC, being commissioned in the Air Force, and serving there for the contracted time? Earnestly and with everything in me, seeking wise counsel and praying hard, I sought God’s leading.
And God spoke. He said, “Sign the contract and become an Air Force officer when you graduate, and I will bless you in that. But I have another choice you can make, a harder path, but a better choice.” God made it clear to me that, whether I signed that contract or not, I was fully within his will. And though he did not at the time let me know what the other option was, he also told me that he had another choice and that it would be better. It was the hardest choice I’ve ever made—I loved the Air Force and ROTC, and they loved me. But in the end, I chose God’s mysterious better choice.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that choice was Chi Alpha ministry.
Do I wonder what it would have been like if I’d chosen differently? Not really—it is not for me to know. But I know, from what God spoke to me, that I would still have been following his lead.
So eagerly pursue God’s leading in your life. Devote yourself wholly to following Christ and seeking his will. Find out what God has for you. Do not assume that God has only one thing for you to choose.