A friend asked me this question several months ago. In context, I knew she wasn’t referring to a “general” or “primary” calling to live for Christ. She was asking me if I believe there is such a thing as a “specific” or “secondary” calling, like the calling to become a doctor or a missionary.
I understood the question because people talk about this sort of “calling” all the time. They say things like, “I just felt called to do it.” Called to marry him. Called to plant a church. Called to adopt. Called to give. Some people love to talk about calling…so much so that you wonder if they go to the grocery store and feel “called” to buy Crest toothpaste instead of Colgate. These sort of people used to frustrate me. It felt like they had a private line with God, and He just told them everything to do, say, think, eat, and moisturize with. To be honest, I was jealous. Many times it felt like I begged God for discernment and heard crickets in the background. I always wanted to exclaim, But how do you know you’re called?
Suffice to say, I’ve pondered my friend’s question long before she asked it. I usually find myself thinking about calling in one of two life scenarios–either before making a major decision, or in a season of difficulty and discouragement. In the former scenario, I’m hoping not to make a mistake. In the latter, I’m wondering if I already did.
The funny thing about “calling” is it’s deeply tied to our view of God. The person who is wondering about calling is the person who is secretly hoping God actually has a plan for her life. Secretly hoping she hasn’t somehow fallen out of His hands. Secretly hoping He loves her enough to be intimately involved in the details of her life. I should know, I am that person. So instead of rambling on inconclusively with my friend, this is how I wish I would’ve answered her question:
Yes. I believe God has a specific calling for every single person, including you and your husband. I believe this because the God of the Bible is vastly personal, with the power to bestow wisdom (James 1:5), to direct your steps (Pro 16:9), and to equip you to do His will (Heb 13:21). The God of the Bible is so completely sovereign that even the sparrows don’t fall to the ground apart from His will (Matt 10:29). He most surely has a sovereign will for you and your husband–people created in His image, whom He rescued at tremendous cost.
BUT, the tricky thing is, He may not reveal it to you right now. If there is one thing I have learned from this year’s BSF study on Genesis, it’s that callings from God are revealed and fulfilled in His timing. Abraham waited twenty-five years for God to give him Isaac. Joseph was seventeen years old when He had a vision of his brothers bowing before him, and he was thirty-nine years old when the vision came to pass. Clearly the presence of waiting is not the absence of calling. In fact, it might be the hallmark of it! I cannot think of a single instance in the Bible where God revealed a calling in its entirety, and then fulfilled it immediately. Which brings me to the second thing I’ve learned from our Genesis study: Callings from God are not free of suffering. Look back at Joseph again. It amazes me to think that while he sat in prison, he was in the very center of God’s will for his life. I would’ve been begging, “Surely there is a plan B! This cannot be Your plan for my life!” But it was. It just wasn’t the plan in its entirety–it was a piece of the plan. It was a dark and painful season that transformed a cocky 17 year-old boy into the God-fearing governor of Egypt. In other words, there is a purpose for the suffering! There is a purpose for all the waiting, and all the painful growth. It’s not a deviation from the plan; it’s part of it. In the meantime, you can plant your hope firmly in the fact that callings from God are for His glory and our good. All along, God loved Joseph. All along, the plan was intended to glorify God and to bless Joseph, something Joseph himself understood when he told his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen 50:20).
Dear sister (or brother), if you belong to God, you will never fall out of His hand. You will never be big enough to thwart His will, or ruin His ability to use your life for His glory. There is always a plan. Even in the silence.
While you wait for God’s specific calling for your life to come together, the Bible overflows with His clearly revealed general calling for all people. He has called us to holiness (I Thess 4:7), to share the gospel of Christ (Matt 28:18-20), to be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18), to love and forgive like Christ (Jn 13:34, Eph 4:32) to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances (I Thess 5:15-18). God has called us to Himself. To a relationship with Him, in which we become like Him by His own power and grace. He has called us to surrender, to be at peace with the things we do not know because we are at peace with the One who controls them.
Lest you think I am writing this from a position of great comfort and security, I am not. I am writing it from Joseph’s cell–from that place of quiet and painful patience. But the more I do what Joseph did–embracing the season, serving the cupbearer and the baker and working with all my heart as unto the Lord–the more I see that this is a place of great freedom. This is the place where fear runs and hides, because it is the place where you finally believe that nothing can separate you from the love of Christ. It is the place where character deepens, faith blossoms, and hope overcomes. It is the very center of God’s will.