8 Questions to Help Discover Your Vocation
When it comes to vocation, as a church, we’re all over the map.
Some of us know exactly who we are and what we’re called to do. Others of us have no clue. You’re trackless, visionless, lost and confused. But you would give anything to know. And a lot of you are somewhere in the middle – you have a vague sense, but it’s not clear yet.
Wherever you’re at, one of the best ways to discover your vocation is to ask questions.
Lots of questions.
Here are eight questions to help you discover your vocation:
1. What do you love (or hate)?
Put another way, what are you passionate about? What makes you light up with joy? Or what makes you sad and angry? What keeps you up at night?
Gerry Breshears said it best for young people: “Figure out what you love, and then see if you can make a living at it.”
My favorite question for people is, if you could do anything, what would it be?
All the realists are thinking, come on, it’s not that easy. You’re right. It’s not. But it’s crazy that more people don’t pursue what’s in their heart. Honestly, the number one reason is fear. If you’re a follower of Jesus, the last thing that should determine your future is fear.
What’s in your heart? Go after it.
2. What are you good at (and bad at)?
We all know people who really want to be a singer or a designer or whatever, but they just are not very good at it.
Growing up, I was really into basketball, and I wanted to play in the NBA. I would practice for hours in the driveway. There was just one thing – I was so bad. I don’t have an athletic bone in my body. So eventually, after years of embarrassment, I gave it up.
But then I found music. I was pretty good at music. My band ended up getting signed to a record label.
But then I found teaching. And it hit me, I think this could be my thing.
We all want to get to the point where we’re really good at something. Now, it takes years to even figure out what you’re good and bad at, and decades longer to become a maestro in your field. So experiment. You’ll do some things and come alive and people all around you will say, “Wow, you’re amazing at that.”
And you’ll do other things and hate every minute of it and people all around you will say, “Yeah, maybe you should do something else with your life…”
That’s okay. Celebrate it.
Sometimes failure means you just need to take another run at it, and not give up; but other times, it means you just took another step forward in learning what you’re not called to. That’s a gift. Because with each success, and with each so-called failure, you’re getting a clearer and clearer sense of your vocation.
3. What does the world need?
When you look at the world – at your city, your nation, your generation – what is missing? What is it that the world needs more of? Or less of?
When you look out at the world, what do you see and think to yourself, “Somebody needs to fix that?” Maybe that somebody is you.
The novelist Frederick Buechner put it this way, “Work is the place where your gladness meets the world’s deep need.” That’s what you’re looking for – the intersection between what you love, what you’re good at, and what the world needs.
4. Does it make the world a more Garden-like place?
We are not just called to any kind of work. We’re called to make a Garden-like world where image bearers can flourish and thrive.
What about your work?
Is it good work? Good for the earth, for the economy, for the developing world? Does it reshape the raw materials of planet earth into an environment where human beings can live with God?
Most importantly, is it something that God smiles on?
After all, his opinion on your work matters more than anybody else. After a hard day’s work, can you hear God whisper in your ear, “Well done”?
There are some kinds of work that cannot be a vocation, or a calling from God, like using your body in a pornographic or sexualized way, or siphoning the natural resources of the developing world so the 1% can live just a little bit better. The only jobs that can be a calling from God are those that harmonize with Jesus’ vision of the kingdom.
What about your job or career or college major or dream for the future? Does it make the world a more Garden-like place?
5. What are people who know you saying?
Sometimes people close to us – family, friends, our missional community – have a unique vantage point to see our life from the outside in. Ask those people what they think you should do with your life.
What do you see in me?
Let’s say you want to start a food cart. Does your community support your desire and affirm it? Or do they caution you against it? Obviously, opinion and bias come in here and people aren’t God, but, a wise man or woman will ask people what they think, and then listen.
6. What are the open doors in your life?
What’s right in front of you?
What’s happening? What’s not happening?
You gotta be careful with that second question, because sometimes a closed door is just a timing thing, or it means you need to go knock a little bit louder, or maybe even throw your shoulder into it – but hopefully you get what I’m saying. Sometimes a calling is staring us in the face, we just need to make eye contact.
7. Is there anything that God is blessing?
Maybe there’s an area in your life that God just keeps blessing. You’re good and getting better at it. Open doors keep coming your way, and it’s doing a lot of good in the world. Keep moving in that direction.
All by itself, this question could mislead you. But in the lineup of all these other questions, maybe something becomes apparent. It’s almost like, in that area, everything you touch turns to gold. It could be God’s way of saying, “This is your vocation.”
8. What is the Spirit stirring in your heart?
This is similar to the first question, but different because sometimes the Spirit will call us to do stuff we don’t want to do.
Honestly, I swore I would never become a pastor. And here I am.
Is there anything that the Spirit is stirring deep inside you? Some sense of destiny you just can’t shake? Something you feel like you have to do as an act of obedience and submission to God?
There are all sorts of things that sound fun to me, and I could hopefully make a living doing any number of them – but teaching the Scriptures is the thing I feel like I have to do. Maybe that’s a bad example because it’s spiritual sounding. But it could just as well be designing homes, or writing Young Adult Sci-Fi books, or opening a taco stand.
Maybe the answer to this question is no, there’s nothing. That’s cool, keep searching.
But maybe there is something, and you carry a healthy, sober fear of God about it. If so, whatever that is, go do it…
Excerpt from a teaching by John Mark Comer as part of the Garden City teaching series.