Is it possible to over emphasize personal fulfillment in our callings and careers? How much of our struggle with feeling fulfilled is related to the freedom and opportunities we enjoy?
How would we talk about this subject if we lived in places or periods of history with far less freedom and prosperity?
Does our emphasis on identity, meaning and significance in calling and career make it unrealistic for most people in the world? And is it also possible that making too close a connection between calling and significance contributes to the pervasive problem with discontentment in Western cultures?
These are important questions, but my concerns go far deeper. The way that many emphasize meaning and significance might actually conflict with kingdom values.
I realize that we must bring truth to our particular contexts and that it won’t look the same in every situation. But I am grateful that there are truths that transcend context.
On this subject, for example, we know that it’s God’s will for us to work and provide for our families (II Thessalonians 3:10; I Timothy 5:8). This is clearly God’s calling. Yet it’s stated in more general terms and doesn’t address matters of giftedness or feelings of fulfillment and significance in relation to our work.
In places ( and there are many) where there are only a few options for fulfilling this requirement, the role of significance and meaning in one’s job is found in obedience to God’s will — not in feelings of fulfillment. But shouldn’t this be our focus no matter where we work? Perhaps we need a transformation of values in ways that base feelings of fulfillment and significance on obedience to what we KNOW about God’s will.
Of course, if we live in places where opportunity affords us to connect gifts, passions and labor, as good stewards, we should look for ways to merge and maximize them. But, at the end of our brief journey on earth, hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant” will be based on a pursuit of obedience to the clearly revealed will of God.
We must allow kingdom thinking to produce kingdom values and kingdom emotions. So “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23, NIV, emphasis mine).
No matter where you are in this life or what you do, I pray that your sense of calling will celebrate “the strange glory of ordinary things.” “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31, NLT, emphasis mine). (see: The Glory of Ordinary Lives).
And let’s remind ourselves often that God’s will is far more concerned with who we are than where we serve or what we do in terms of career (see: How can I walk in God’s will? – 12 Essentials).