I grew up in a small Iowa town along the Mississippi River. I remember seeing pictures of the Smithsonian museums and never expecting to go there. But life has a way of taking us down unexpected paths. Turns out, not only have I been to the Smithsonian, but I have been many places I never expected to see or visit. Who knew?
There are many stages in life when we would really like to be able to look ahead and know the twists and turns life will take. Adults start asking “What do you want to be?” or “What do you plan to do with your life?” The best answer most of us can come up with is “How the heck am I supposed to know?” For those active in the church whether in youth groups or more, God would seem to be the best place to find the answers. This is true…up to a point.
Neither to the Left nor to the Right
Many times in the stories of the Old Testament, the persons involved are urged to stay on the path and not wander off to the left or to the right. In this life search, straying to the right means not making any decisions on your own, you check in with God about every little aspect of your day. With this approach you turn God into a Magic 8 Ball, asking God a question, giving him a shake and seeing what answer pops up.
Straying to the left is the person who says, “God does not care at all what career I choose, where I live, or who I marry.” Those straying to the left are OK with working for the lottery, getting involved in barely legal schemes or businesses that prey upon the weak and disadvantaged. For them it is not a question of how the money was earned but how it is used. As long as I give a little to the church and put some change in the Salvation Army Kettle, God can’t hold it against me, can he?
We need to walk the middle road. Don’t think that if God wants you to be a doctor, he will somehow make it happen without any effort on your part. Likewise, don’t assume you can do whatever you want because God is forgiving.
Yes, God Does Have a Plan
God has a plan for each and every one of us, without exception. John Wesley called this “The Way of Salvation.” Every one of us was born a sinner, but God’s plan is that we not stay like that. Before we ever knew it, God touched me and he touched you with his prevenient grace. Through this grace we can at least have the option of making good choices. By God’s plan we continue on the Way. He expects us to reach a point in our lives when we cry out “I am lost, I am nothing without you. I am such a mess I could not expect you to want me, but you are my only hope.” By faith we turn to God and put our lives in his hands. By justifying grace, He forgives all that we have done before and fills us with his Holy Spirit. We may look the same from the outside, but inside we have been radically changed. God’s plan does not even end there. His sanctifying grace continues to work in us day-by-day, year-by-year, helping us become more and more like Jesus.
The second part of God’s plan is we are to love God, love ourselves, and love each other. When you get down to the basics this is what the whole Bible is about. The Bible is a collection of stories. Some describe the rocky love relationship between God and people. Others help us to understand how God sees us and calls us his beloved. Still others teach us how to love one another and live together.
No, God Does Not Have a Plan
But what about my career, what kind of job should I get? What about those refrigerator magnets with Jerimiah 29:11 – “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope”? Doesn’t this mean God already knows all the jobs I will have and can’t he just give me a clue? No. This verse is really talking about coming back into right relationship with God, not about jobs and careers.
God has given you clues. Personally speaking, I do not remember being handed a form before I was born asking where and when I wanted to be born, whether I wanted to be a woman or a man, or what skills and talents I wanted in particular. All of these were God’s decisions and a free gift to me. With each aspect of who I am, I have the choice to cooperate with God or not. I can use the mind he gave me or not. I can use the talents and skills he gave me or not.
God gave each of us a starting point and what we each do with it depends in part on ourselves. God needs teachers. If I have the gifts and talents for teaching I could be a teacher in many different ways and in many different places. God needs engineers and bankers and mechanics and bakers and all sorts of other workers in this world. So if you are waiting for God to say, “Go to this university and get this degree and then get this job in this company,” you may be in for a long wait and a big disappointment.
Maybe God Does Have a Plan
Each of us is called to be in ministry to the world (that’s God’s plan up above). Some are called by God to be ministers as a job. For these people, God seems to have a specific plan in mind. For some the call to be a minister comes at an early age – I know a pastor who knew at 10 years old he would be a minister – for some it comes much later in life, after other successful careers. You should never say, “God can’t possibly use me, so I don’t have to worry.” Check into Moses, Gideon, Paul, and the others whom God called to be leaders. Most were the last person anyone would expect. Maybe God has this in mind for you.
So, now what?
You may be thinking, “This has not helped, I still need to choose classes, think about college and a major, and what I want to do with my life. What do I do?” Stay connected with friends, youth leaders, and your pastors! Others may see something in you that you don’t. Stay connected with God! After all, he only desires good for you. He will nudge you and guide you, but you have to be listening. Don’t stress! Your first job will probably not be your last. I have made six career changes over my life. It is ok to say “This is not working, I need to try something new.” Trust God! If you stumble, he is there to catch you before you fall.