By Enoch Chang, MDiv ’11
I met up with a volunteer at my church this past week over coffee. He’s a young guy with loads of talent trying to find out where he’s heading in life. He’s having doubts about his current path, questioning life decisions he’s made early on. Most of us have been there. Some of us are still there. And that’s ok. All I could think as he was sharing his doubts was, I’ve been there.
And I came to this realization: I’m no longer there. At least for now. That’s a huge deal because for a large portion of my life I’ve been there was I don’t know what I’m doing with my life.
I remember praying everyday, “God, show me what you want me to do,” or “Give me some direction.” It wasn’t until I met up with that volunteer that I realized it wasn’t about all about me asking God for direction. Here’s what I told him:
Asking is not enough
That might sound blasphemous to some of you. I am a firm believer that prayer is powerful and that there is nothing impossible for God; however, there’s something to be said about asking God to do something and us not taking any action ourselves.
St. Augustine is quoted as saying, “Pray as if everything depended on God. Work as if everything depended on you.” The volunteer told me he had been praying that God would show him what to do. It’s a great thing to pray. But let me tell you from experience, I’ve prayed that prayer A LOT and it didn’t start to get answered until I took steps to find out what that direction was.
What are you interests? What are you passionate about? What are your strengths? Or, if you’re as indecisive as I am, what don’t you want to do? As you cross things off your list, you narrow down your direction and you can start taking steps, no longer overwhelmed by the needlessly many paths around you. Take a step. Don’t just ask.
Find a mentor
I let the volunteer know about my journey to where I am now. Most recently, I had contemplated finding a secular job as a graphic designer (a subject I know very little about). I asked friends and, through networking, was able to talk to some professional graphic artists at a very reputable organization. They gave me pointers and one told me to read Meggs’ History of Graphic Design. So I purchased the massive textbook from Amazon and started reading. I made it a couple chapters in before I could not read any more.
It was then I realized I might not be cut out to be a graphic designer. But without finding someone who knew what they were talking about, I would not have been able to take a step. Find someone who knows more than you on the subject. Share your doubts, your fears. Ask about the process.
Sometimes you just have to push through. There will be times you don’t feel like doing something. Push through. Hebrews 12:11 says:
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (NIV)
You can’t just do things you feel like doing all the time. You’re an adult, for crying out loud! You have to think about the long term, not just how you’re feeling right now.
The volunteer let me know that he had lost passion for what he was once very passionate about. He was worried that his loss of passion meant maybe he should be doing something else he might be more passionate about. I told him to push through with what he’s pursuing currently.
One of 2 things will happen: 1) This is just a temporary lack of passion and pushing through it will solidify your pursuit of this path and you’ll be stronger for it or 2) This is a permanent lack of passion and pushing through it will solidify the fact that this isn’t what you should be doing but you’ll be disciplined for it as you look for what’s next. Either way, pushing through is going to be beneficial.
You’re not too old to start over
I feel like I could be the spokesperson for this thought in particular. I took a couple years off after graduating college working at Starbucks before I took the call to go into full-time ministry. I didn’t have my first full-time ministry position until I was about 30. And even afterward had contemplated a career shift and possibly going back to school to pursue an entirely different career path.
It’s never too late to pursue how you will best glorify God. The volunteer told me he was too old to pursue something else. Mind you, the kid is about 23 years old. I looked him in the eye and told him, “trust me, you are definitely not too old to go a different direction if that’s what’s stopping you.” And I know there are people older than me who would say, “30? Psh! I didn’t know what I wanted to do until I was 40!” Or 50 or whatever.
Don’t worry about societal or familial pressures of not having everything figured out by a certain age. There’s no rule that says you have to have everything figured out by the time you graduate high school or college. It’s not too late.
Spend time with God
Now this might seem to contradict my first point, but I assure you they are one and the same.
Spending time with God has a way of giving us the right perspective on things. Sometimes it’s not so much God showing us where we need to go as it is giving us peace and understanding while we’re going through an uncertain season. This is the most important thing one can do when seeking direction.
I have recently moved to California taking a position as a worship leader for a multi-site church in the Bay area, but up until the moment I accepted the position, I was asking God for direction. But in my times with God, I felt taken care of. I never once felt like I was in despair. I still took steps to figure out what direction I was heading, but my times with God assured me I was not alone and I was well taken care of.
The volunteer left feeling like he had some solid actions to take and people to talk to. I realize this might not even be a majority of the population, but if you’re anything like me or him, this blogpost might be helpful to read. Go out, do something, find people, all while spending time with God, the one who knows you way better than you know yourself.
Enoch is the worship leader at Cornerstone Fellowship in Walnut Creek, California.
Interest in discernment has grown significantly over the past few decades. An ancient spiritual practice, it is once again being recognized and embraced as a timely and practical means of grace. The Center for Lifelong Learning’s Spirituality Program presents Growing in Discernment: Attuning our Spiritual Senses, November 7 – 11, 2016 led by Marjorie Thompson. Registration and more information is available now. We’d love to see you there!