Disappointed with your job? Why calling delivers what context can’t
By Dave Rhodes, Kelly Kannwischer, and Cory Hartman
“Now what do I do?” he asked me (Dave). The caller had achieved success after success in ministry, eventually rising to the position of lead youth pastor of a 10,000-person gigachurch in Southern California. After a few years in that role he was ready to take the next step—lead pastor of a Florida megachurch. It was the obvious next step in his calling—or so he thought.
One year later, he had moved his family back to the West Coast. He was no longer serving in professional ministry at all anymore; he had become an executive coach in a high-powered consulting firm catering to Fortune 500 corporations.
He was doing great in his new job. And he felt miserable.
“Now what do I do?” he said again. “When we moved East, I was so sure that I was taking the right step. But it all turned out so wrong; I hated the job I thought I always wanted.
“Now I’m receiving tons of favor in my new position, but it feels wrong too. Dave, I have five roles in front of me that I’m thinking about applying for, most of them in churches, and I have no idea which way to go. I thought I was going to be fulfilled the last time I leapt into a job, and I was totally wrong. What’s going to keep me from being wrong this time?”
She was a corporate executive climbing the ladder of a prestigious finance company. Her position and her obvious ability as a speaker had given her the chance to present at several business-related events in her church. She was beginning to have a reputation in her region as the go-to speaker on issues of faith and work. But she was also a mom who longed to have a more flexible schedule to spend time with her family. She secretly wondered if she could parlay her business experience and biblical wisdom to launch her own company, starting by creating a blog and opening herself up to more speaking events.
She took the leap. Fortunately, she and her husband had been saving a nest egg to take advantage of this kind of opportunity. Unfortunately, she underestimated how long it would take to get the business up and running. The transformation of people’s lives through her writing, speaking, and coaching was undeniable. She just wasn’t sure how long she could keep things going without replacing the income she had been making.
Now, two years in, she is debating whether she made a mistake and whether she should return to her job in the business world. She’s received several offers from attractive companies, yet she’s grown accustomed to her flexible schedule. Secretly, she wrestles with doubts about whether she can fulfill her purpose and make enough money to live on at the same time.
The right expectation from the wrong place
Can you relate to my friends? (These two are actually composites of several conversations I have had over the last several months with many different people, which shows just how common the general narrative has become.) Are you disappointed in your job because it wasn’t what you thought it was going to be?
Maybe this isn’t the first time you’ve felt this way; maybe you’ve been in the habit of working for your next job. “When I get that role, I’ll be in my sweet spot.” “When I grow my organization to that point, then I’ll be able to do what I really want to do.”
I don’t blame you; it is natural for us to do this with our jobs. We aren’t hoping for wrong things as much as we are hoping for the right things from the wrong place. We expect a context to give us what only a calling can. And while context is incredibly important—it’s one third of the Younique Life Plan’s Sweet Spot master tool), equating any one job with our calling can set us up for disappointment.
Your calling is more than your context
An essential aspect of growing as a disciple of Jesus is learning your purpose in life—first by learning everyone’s purpose in life. We learn that we were made to prefer God over everything else with everything we are, to glorify and enjoy him forever, to esteem our neighbors as we do ourselves, and to make disciples of all nations.
These expressions of our purpose are to shape everything we do. But it is natural to feel that something is missing. Yes, I am supposed to love God and neighbor, but how specifically am I to do that? Aren’t there better things and worse things I can be occupied with—or more to the point, better and best? How do I discern the right move?
To answer this question, we are prone to get specific—much more specific. We zero in on a particular career or even on a particular job. We look to a role to find “the thing” we’re supposed to do. We’re prone to call this our calling.
We are especially inclined to do this if we are in full-time ministry occupations. We use language and often labor under the label of being “called,” and often insist that our calling is “to be a pastor” or “to be a youth minister” for example.
But the calling to be a pastor doesn’t say very much. In one way it is too specific; it implies that when a pastor is with their family at home or working their hobby or even communing with the Lord alone without reference to the church, they are not operating in their calling.
Yet it is also too broad. So you’re a pastor—so are thousands of others. How are you supposed to be a pastor? How do you function in that role and how do you serve God in it that no one else is equipped or positioned to do?
Because general calling is not enough, we try to fill up what we’re missing with a work context. Yet it can never deliver. We will never find a job that encompasses everything we are called to do. More importantly, a context can never tell us who we are. A job can never teach us our identity. Rather, our identity teaches us about our job.
Five advantages of knowing your special calling
Many people bounce from context to context, hoping one of them will check all their boxes. But that is of no use unless you know what boxes there are to check. And to find that, you have to learn your special calling.
Special calling is the crucial middle layer between general calling and context. Special calling is a clear definition of how God uniquely made you to live out the general calling he has issued to all believers. General calling says, “Everyone—love God and others.” Special calling says, “You—love God and others by doing this.”
Yet special calling is broader than any one context; it is not tied to a particular role. It is not even tied only to the career area of a person’s life; it applies to all areas, home, work, and play, 24/7. It is the specific way you serve God and others everywhere, throughout your life.
When you know what you are specially called to do and you’ve embraced it, you are liberated from having to get all the work satisfaction you hope for out of the perfect job. And that gives you four specific advantages.
1. Special calling filters alternative contexts. Finding a fitting job does not have to be all about trial and error. When we know our special calling well, we can better evaluate potential roles as we look to do more of what we do best. And because we now see our job as a vehicle for our calling, it creates the right kind of expectation for what our job can be.
2. Special calling energizes perseverance in any context. No context is perfect, and every job has bad days. Knowing your special calling minimizes doubt about whether you are in the right place, because your focus is to serve according to your gifting anyplace. Knowing your calling allows you to bring purpose to those tough times rather than just endure them without purpose.
3. Special calling facilitates healthy grief. Whenever we enter a new context, we expect good things from it, yet there are always surprises. Something that we hoped it would be isn’t actually there, or there is a big unpleasant surprise we didn’t see coming. In order to last in our role, we have to grieve the loss of what we thought was going to happen. Special calling helps us grieve loss because special calling is lasting; it is stable and does not go away.
4. Special calling allows disappointment to birth delight. On the other side of grief over a job that wasn’t what you thought it would be, the dream job you didn’t get, or the career path that is blockaded, there are often great opportunities you never could have anticipated. Special calling opens your eyes to recognize and seize ways you can do what you are made to do that you could never ascertain from a job description or from a hundred interviews.
5. Special calling opens up new possibilites. In other words, many times our calling is best embraced not through one context but multiple contexts. These contexts are vehicles through which our calling runs. This means whether we choose to volunteer our time or hold multiple jobs at the same time, we no longer have to expect any one place to meet all our calling needs. This allows us to serve the organizations we align ourselves to with a new kind of freedom, instead of expecting those organizations to fully cater to us.
Maybe what you are looking for isn’t actually a better job. Maybe it’s to identify your special calling. We at Younique believe your special calling is knowable and nameable, and we have designed an online course called Find Your One Thing to help you do just that.
We also invite you to join us for a free webinar on March 20 at 2:00 PM ET entitled JobLuv: How to create a job you love while loving the job you are in.
Today there is no single perfect context for any of us. But God promises that someday we will find ourselves in our perfect context when his kingdom comes in fullness. In the new creation, everything we hope for will be delivered—our work will be beyond imagining. Until then, our special calling gives us a taste of paradise that a context never will.