I got an email this morning, the first results of my graduate applications, and I was denied. I didn’t help that it wasn’t even among the most prestigious schools I’d applied for. Fear immediately set in: I’m not going to get into any of the others, I’m living in a dream world applying for the schools I did, I’m never going to move out of my town or figure out my calling.
But these fears revealed a deeper problem: they all began with I. They weren’t about God; they didn’t direct my focus upward instead of inward. My application, upon its denial, had immediately become my problem.
I spent the morning trying to dissipate my thoughts by playing the piano — I have a piece I have to learn anyway, so no harm, right? But then I kept missing notes I shouldn’t, and it wasn’t because I hadn’t learned them. I tried to play something else, and then finally resolved myself to the hymnal, where I plucked through “Great is Thy Faithness” and remembered that it’s true, even when I can’t see it in this situation yet. Then I came into my room and stared at my laptop, feeling defeated but unwilling to submit to my emotions, which only rarely ever align with truth.
It’s now about 6 hours after my denial, and I’m ashamed that it took me so long to think about it with half of a clear head. The truth is that I have 7 other schools, yes…but none of those schools are my hope. The school that denied me wasn’t my hope.
Jesus is my hope.
And that’s really the message when it comes to thinking about your calling, about figuring out what to do with your life when it seems like it’s just some horrible, unwelcome puzzle. God has a plan, for me, whether or not it’s in school. And that terrifies me, because I want to go to graduate school; I don’t want to live where I do now anymore, because I – I – I – I – I – I – I have so many thoughts, and so few of them are given up in worship to God.
Anyway, I feel as if I’m writing to myself now, reading my draft for “the calling blog” I typed the other day. But in truth, nothing rings less true than it did a week ago. God doesn’t change; for that, I am so grateful.
It often seems like everyone else — including people who aren’t trying to seek God’s will! — have things figured out. Degrees, marriages, even their first children seem to come right on time, in line with everyone else. In the meantime, I have often felt gridlocked in indecision as I waited on the Lord. And maybe I feel that way now, as my own future feels even more uncertain than it did yesterday.
Here’s what I’m telling myself now, and I hope it helps you to think about calling and your future in a God-honoring way.
Try to keep the right focus.
It’s really easy to see our careers/futures as the most important things in our lives. I saw trying to have things planned out as being a good steward. And absolutely, seeking God’s wisdom about the future is good and right, but ultimately, we have to look at God himself. This quote by Oswald Chambers sums it up well:
“God does not tell you what He is going to do; He reveals to you Who He is.”
Our primary spiritual concern should always be getting to know God. Everything else — including future direction — is a far second. God is so much more interesting and important than our future plans. Focus on him, and he will give us direction, even if it doesn’t feel like direction at first.
God is going to use us through our gifts and talents.
To be honest, I used to hear this and my heart would be so hard. I would ask God, “Why did you give me this ability and then not use it?” It would make me angry to hear that God had a plan to use my gifts because I felt unused and unwanted by God because the trajectory of my life felt desultory. These were feelings, not truths.
Eventually, God does put the pieces together…but, oh, it can be tough in the midst. We can’t surrender to thinking that because we don’t have a specific direction now, it means we never will. If we continue to seek God, he will direct our paths.
Hold fast, stay in the Word, and know that God will not turn us down as a vessel. He has a future for us.
God has told you and me everything we need to know now.
I often feel like I’m not doing the right thing, and that’s why God isn’t illuminating my path for me more than, like, an inch down the road. That’s not true. God lets us know exactly what we need to know at the right time. He’s not cruel, he’s not holding back information — he lets you know exactly what you need to know today.
If you go in the wrong direction, God will let you know!
This is why it’s so important that we be close to him in everything. If you’re doing the wrong thing, he loves you and he will steer you in the right direction. He loves you too much not to. Stay in communication with him, and trust his leading.
Thus, feel free to try out different things — for now, your goal could be to investigate different possible futures (whatever that looks like — taking classes, starting a website, anything). God will let you know if something isn’t right. He isn’t going to confuse you, and if he wants to communicate something directly to you, he will make it plain as day.
God hasn’t called us to only one thing.
We might be equally gifted in singing and painting. God sometimes lets us make our own choices by giving us many options. That’s okay too, and it doesn’t mean that he’s not going to anoint our work for the kingdom because we didn’t pick the right one. Often there isn’t a wrong one. He’ll be with us.
God loves us and if we focus on him before anything else, our futures will become something that we’re excitedly anticipating, as a promise of his faithfulness in a shape and form we don’t yet know! That is the best thing — better than any direction, than any acceptance into graduate school. If you and I walk with him and seek to know him more, he will guide us by his spirit.
© Olivia Davis 2019, all rights reserved
Photo by Unplash User: Aaron Burden
A Narrow Path says
I went through a lot of anxiety about graduate school too but it all worked out in the end. Like you said it’s not about school. I really liked this post and it sounds like you’re focus is where it needs to be. Things tie together in unexpected ways in terms of using your talents. Skills are skills and can have broader application than you might think.
Thanks for the encouragement! Much appreciated. Yes — it’s all about who we focus on instead of what.