The previous entry Neat & Tidy Tips for Discerning Your Call had a lot of ways to confirm God’s lead in your life. But what about those times you don’t feel his pull or he seems distant and uninvolved?
Side note: I do not think God is ever uninvolved. He is crazy about you and highly invested in his creation (you). He has poured countless hours into making you useful to his kingdom.
This post is for those of you who still want to discern your call but you feel like you have hit some kind of wall, you feel a bit stuck or paralyzed. It is my hypothesis that we are not perfect (duh) and that we need to humble ourselves, recognize any sin or error, and come before God vulnerable with our mess. He knows we need him. Sometimes he is waiting for us to come to him with honesty before he can lead us to the next right step. Consider these ten ideas as a good place to start your confessions.
1. My timing vs. God’s timing. This happens to me all the time. I think God should give me the answer now. In college I wanted to know my call immediately because there was so much pressure to choose a major. I wish I could tell you God bows his knee to pressure, and me beating my chest or crying out before him, but he does not. He has a time for you. It may not be now. Jesus is the best example. He told his Mom at a wedding “It is not my time yet”. He told it to his disciples. I mean, he worked as a carpenter for about 15 years and did not get the green light until he was 30! We can lack patience for God’s timing. We can lack trust that he will call us at the right time. We can be demanding and have temper tantrums. Confess these things to him.
2. Pattern of Sin. You may have heard this a thousand times in youth group, but that does not make it any less true. Sin can build a wall between your heart and God. When we are consistently giving ourselves over to lust, greed, selfishness, control, lying, etc. we are choosing our own will over God’s. It is a precarious place to stand when you choose another affection of your heart over Christ. He calls it idolatry. He wants you to be devoted to him. He wants to help you be devoted to Him. If you know you are sinning (and I mean you know it) confess these things to him and to your community. Don’t be afraid to show your ugly side. We all have one. And God already sees it and loves you anyway.
3. Hiding our Brokenness. As a counselor I have seen many men and women who are actually crushed by the pain of their life. I have met many who are struggling to keep their head above water. They are wrestling with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addiction, trauma, abandonment, and the list goes on. These are serious issues that many times we try to conquer on our own. When I was in this place I kept it a secret. I wanted God to wave a magic wand and cover my mess and mostly so I could move on and do ministry. However, God wanted to heal me, not fix me. He uses broken people all the time, but usually they are very honest about this brokenness. I know God used me once I became honest and open about my brokenness. If this rings true for you, tell someone, step into the light. It is in the light that we are seen, we shine, even in our mess, and God can use us.
4. Entitlement. One of my pet peeves is entitlement. It makes me cringe and my stomach churn. To be honest, this is probably because I see it in my own life as well as in our western culture. As it relates to calling- If you expect God to show up on your terms- yikes. If you demand God give you what you want, watch out. He is going to give you something. You might want to be called into a certain city or job, that does not always mean God wants you there. I moved to Asheville after college because I wanted to. I did not ask God about it, I just did it. Then when I got there, I asked God to bless my decision. What?! So bad, I know. To summarize, I knew immediately I had made a terrible mistake and learned that my demands do not dictate God’s actions. It was the most humbling year of my life. Check your entitlement at the door. You do not deserve anything. God’s call on your life is HIS and he has a right to use you any way he wishes. The fact that he even acknowledges you, let alone loves you and calls you, is pure grace.
5. Fear. Not to much to explain here. God calls us to do scary and uncomfortable and risky things. Do you trust him? If fear/ lack of trust is keeping you from doing what God is asking, tell someone. Ask people for prayer, specifically that you can trust God enough to take the leap. I hope to find you abandoning yourself recklessly into the love of God.
6. Lack of prayer. If you tell me you want to hear from God, my only question is, how much time do you devote to listening? People who need a job to feed their children get up at 3 am and wait for hours until a work truck drives by and hires them for the day. Desperation can drive action. How bad do you really want to know God’s call? Are you willing to lose sleep, lunch hours, forego food or tv? Wake up and pray. Get on your knees. Dig around in your soul and find the unquenchable thirst for God. Disclaimer: God still may not tell you your call (see point 1.) but He will tell you when the time is right.
7. Limited knowledge. Do you know about the needs of this world? Do you know what this kingdom is that God is building? Do some research. Talk to people. Get educated. If you feel God calling you to be a mental health counselor, and you hate school, sometimes you have to bite the bullet and go to school anyway. This could also be small thinking. Maybe you need to travel and experience the world before you even know what God is calling you to do. Before I met Alastair I had no idea that the church in Canada was dying. After traveling and seeing it, God confirmed our call to Canada.
8. Counting the Cost and Accepting the Loss. This one weighs heavy on my heart today. Sometimes God calls you away from the people and places you have grown to love. I can honestly say that is a huge hindrance for me in making such a big leap of faith. I have to be honest with God. I am upset about leaving my family. It is heartbreaking. If you feel that the costs of His call on your life are too much, tell someone. Ask them to pray for you. I can say that it will challenge your faith. My prayer and hope is that God sees what we are losing for his sake, and he will honor that sacrifice somehow, on earth or in heaven.
9. Disobedience. A brilliant man named Bob Tuttle once told me about obeying God’s will and the consequences for not living in that space. He said when we run from God’s will we enter the “hell of disobedience”. This was not said to scare me but as a way of guiding me. If you have ever directly disobeyed God you probably know what I am talking about. It is not punishment, but a tool God uses to get us back to him. It is grace in action. Let’s call it tough love. Examples in my life include a gut level sinking feeling, extended times of running into walls and banging my head against closed doors, frustration, feeling distant from God, feeling angry, feeling selfish, feeling rebellious, and feeling isolated. Pretty much, it feels like a giant temper tantrum. You know deep down when you are pushing your own desires and your own will rather than being willing to surrender to whatever God is calling you to do or to be. God can use hellish things to get our attention. It usually works in my life. If you are experiencing this living hell, tell someone and ask them to pray for you. Confess your disobedience and trust God to pull you out of that place.
10. Spiritual warfare. Hellish things can also be spiritual warfare. I believe God is bigger and stronger than any evil in this world. Trust in him to battle for you. He cares more about your calling than you ever could. He is deeply invested in you. He wants to put you to work in his kingdom. Hold on because he is working to overcome anything that might be in your way- whether that is a personal sin issue or something external. Tell someone what you are experiencing. Ask them to pray with you.
In James it says, “Confess your sins to one another and be healed”. Go to your community group, a close friend, or your pastor and confess the ways you have been mistaken or have defied God. Pray together. God wants to use you, but he also wants to heal you and transform you. Let him ravish you with his grace. Let him see you messy and ugly. I promise he will not leave you there.