By Hope Bolinger, Crosswalk.com
Does our calling always align with our passion? Often Christians can link the two of these together as one.
“The Lord put this on my heart, so this must be my calling.”
Not necessarily. Sometimes God can call us to do something that seems like the opposite of our passion.
Our culture also seems to promote this idea to “follow our dreams” but not a single verse in the Bible says, “Follow your dreams, and God will guide your footsteps.”
Sometimes God does align our passions and dreams with His plan for our lives, but not in every case. This article will dive into what we should do if we find ourselves in the opposite of our passions, and some ways to discern if our passions and God’s calling for our lives line up.
What if God calls me to something I’m not passionate about?
What about the reverse? What if God calls us to do something we have no desire to do? What if our calling and passions do not line up by any stretch?
I remember a message my pastor once spoke in church. He talked about a time when his son first told him he wanted to make Jesus Lord of his life.
“That’s great news, buddy.” The pastor crinkled his eyes. “But I need you to answer a question for me before I can show you how to accept Jesus, OK?”
“What is the number one job you’ve always wanted to be?”
The boy had answered something along the lines of a racecar driver.
“And what’s a job you don’t want to do?”
The answer: janitor.
“OK, buddy, now if God told you that you had to be a janitor for the rest of your life and that you could never be a racecar driver what would you do?”
He shrugged. “I wouldn’t do what he told me to.”
The pastor frowned. “Well, buddy, I don’t think you’re ready to accept Jesus quite yet.”
A week later the boy approached his father. “Dad, if God asked me to be a janitor, I would do it.”
“Now you’re ready.”
When God calls us, we say “Here I am. Send me” (Isaiah 6:8). The Bible is full of people who didn’t feel passionate about where God called them to go. Jonah ran to the other end of the world instead of to Nineveh (Jonah 1:3). Moses begged God to send someone else to confront Pharaoh (Exodus 4:10).
It is possible that God may call us in an area which we don’t feel passionate about. In such moments, we have to exercise trust in Him, even if He calls us to be janitors instead of racecar drivers or whatever areas we find ourselves least passionate.
Perhaps He’ll do so to stretch us and help us grow more like Him every day.
6 ways to discern when your passion equals your calling:
What happens when our passions do happen to align with our calling? How can we discern when God gives us something to do as a hobby or to do full-time?
Although this can differ from one believer to the next, the following can be indicators that your passion may be lending its way to being your calling.
1. It provides ways for you to witness to others.
If you’re passionate about something that would only place you in a community of believers or on your own, this may not necessarily be your calling. Although, yes, we should spend time in a community of believers, God has also called us to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
If your passion seems like you won’t have many chances to spread the Gospel, you may have found yourself in a temporary job or hobby, but not a calling.
2. It doesn’t have a hidden motivation.
I come from a generation that treasures fame. We grew up watching our peers get instant fame on YouTube, Instagram, and other social platforms. When exploring passions versus our callings, we often will have to wrestle with hidden motivations for why we want to pursue what we want to pursue.
For instance, I felt a strong passion toward writing. Nothing else made sense.
But, when you witness authors getting million-dollar book deals and have hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, it can get tempting to pursue writing for the fame and thousands of readers who will read your work.
(Which, by the way, working as an agent, you learn very quickly that these cases are extremely rare).
Our calling should be guided by God instead of having a little of God sprinkled on top. Sometimes that means no fame, fortune, or approval will come from such callings. In fact, more often than not, the opposite occurs.
When assessing if our passion lines up with our callings, we have to come to terms with any reasons why we’d want to force the two to coincide.
3. It pushes us to grow.
God is constantly sanctifying us to make us more like Him. His plan for our lives, our calling, will propel us toward this growth (1 Peter 2:2).
If your passion does not force you to grow to be more like Christ, it is very clearly not your calling. But if you find it stretches you and forces you to rely on God, then your passion and calling may be lining up.
4. It’s often preceded by many closed doors.
If you’re anything like me, you have to have a door slammed in your face to tell you that’s not the right opportunity for you.
When pursuing our passions instead of our calling, we’ll race to certain doors that God will shut later on.
5. It has a long-term lifespan than a short-term one.
For the longest time, I wanted to be a paleontologist.
Then, for years, a teacher.
And so on...our passions fade in and out. Maybe one activity in our early years we pursued, and we have no interest in that activity now.
But God’s plan for our life lasts for, well, our whole life.
We also have to keep in mind our calling does not necessarily mean the same thing as our job, even if we’re very passionate about our jobs. Jesus started as a carpenter, Paul made tents, Lydia sold purple dye.
Paul didn’t make tents his whole ministry, nor did Jesus do stonework his entire life (the term carpenter doesn’t always refer to working with wood in the biblical context), but they did spread the word of God wherever they were placed.
6. It will often lead to moments of joy.
Even if God calls us to do something we do not feel passionate about, we get the chance to witness Him working through us. I would much rather see someone come to the Lord through what He has called me to do than to get one hundred thousand readers to read my books.
Recently, my sister has a cognitive dissonance between her passions and calling. She studied to be a teacher and minored in theater, both of which are two strong passions of hers.
But when she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl this past January, she felt called to stay at home.
In her blog post about this, she discusses how she never wanted to be a stay at home mom. With her husband in ministry, her salary as a teacher helped them not to worry much about finances, and she enjoyed teaching.
She talks about how God asked her to trust Him by having her take this step she never wanted to. Even a month and a half into this calling, she has felt immense moments of joy. Yes, it comes with many frustrations and trials, but she has witnessed God’s goodness by leaning into this calling--even if it didn’t align with her passions.
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a recent graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 350 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog. Her modern-day Daniel, Blaze (Illuminate YA) just released, and they contracted the sequel for 2020. Find out more about her here.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 600 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog. Her modern-day Daniel, Blaze, (Illuminate YA) Den (releasing July 2020), Dear Hero (releasing September 2020), and Dear Henchman (releasing 2021) Find out more about her here.