We often fear that we will miss God’s purpose for our life. It is as if we think we are waiting at a bus stop and God’s will is going to drive right on by, leaving us stuck for the rest of our lives (Badcock, 1998). There are numerous holes in this metaphor. At some level, it is impossible for us to miss the plan of God. Yet, on another, we can indeed have blind spots that limit our ability to discern our calling. Ten popular distractions are listed below.
- Pride: Are you failing to acknowledge that you are confused because uncertainty is uncomfortable and perhaps embarrassing?
- Busyness: Are you taking time to “be still” and reflect?
- Worldliness: Popular temptations include power, possessions and prestige. Be careful; sometimes money costs too much.
- Dismissal of the Ordinary: Sometimes we ask for signs, but overlook or dismiss the ones we already have. “We look for big things to do. Jesus took a towel and washed the disciples feet” (Chambers, 1963).
- Approval of Others: Are you seeking to make others happy at all costs?
- Fear and Doubt: It is often easy to confuse discernment with skeptical unbelief. This is usually rooted in fear – fear of failure, of success or of making sacrifices. Like Moses, we may doubt our ability or make excuses; like Jonah, we may want to run away.
- Desire for Control: Surrendering to our vocations often translates to living with some uncertainty and risk, which can be uncomfortable. Choosing a career also closes the door on the options not chosen. Do you find it easier to make all the decisions so everything is planned out? Are you indecisive because you think it is safer to keep all of your options open?
- Failure to Act: While vocational discernment requires significant wrestling, at some point we need to be willing to follow it. As soon as you sense God nudging you, act. Volunteer. Enroll in a class. Speak to professionals in the field. Do something to confirm or disconfirm God’s presence.
- Lack of Persistence and Motivation: Discernment is often difficult. There is no easy formula or quick method. Our calling will also include obstacles. Identify and plan for these barriers.
- Sin: Sometimes God’s silence indicates that He is preparing you for an experience that will deepen your knowledge of who He is. Other times it may be due to unconfessed sin. Joining God in what He is doing may often require you to make major adjustments in your life (Blackaby & King, 1990).
Scared that you missed God’s will? Fear not, for He is the king of second chances. While your previous decisions will have consequences and may impact your future options, the decisions are not permanent. “If the Lord delights in a man’s way, He makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand” (Psalms 37:23-24, NIV).
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