Why You Can’t Just Say “Do What Makes You Happy” (Part 3 in a Series on Vocation)

Why You Can’t Just Say “Do What Makes You Happy” (Part 3 in a Series on Vocation) June 2, 2015
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Image via Death to the Stock Photo

In this series, we’re looking at three major considerations for discerning God’s vocational guidance.

  1. The needs of the world
  2. Your skills and gifts
  3. Your truest desires

This week, we’ll examine the final consideration: your truest desires. The Bible says that your truest or deepest desires are important to God.

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:4

He fulfills the desire of all who fear him; he also hears their cry, and saves them. – Psalm 145:19

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. – Matthew 5:6

Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete. – John 16:24

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Christians sometimes expect that if God calls them to some job, it will be something they hate. Otherwise, why would God have to call them to it? One morbid Christian fantasy is to think of one country you would hate living in, and then suppose that God is calling you to be a missionary there. But the best missionaries have a great desire for the place and people they serve. Besides, who says God wants you to be a missionary? If God is guiding you towards some kind of job or profession, it’s more likely that you may find a deep desire for it in your heart.

However, it can be exceedingly difficult to get in touch with your truest or deepest desires. Our motivations become so confused by sin and the brokenness of the world that our apparent desires are often far from the true desires that God has implanted in the depths of our hearts.

But sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead…. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate….So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. – Romans 7:8,1521-23

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Image via Pixabay

For this reason, we cannot just say, “Do what makes you happy.” What makes you happy—or seems to make you happy — might be far from meeting the needs of the world, or using your skills and gifts for the common good, or even from fulfilling your true desires. And the opposite is often true. The work that would fulfill your true desire appears at first to be undesirable, and may require great sacrifice and difficult labor. And your truest desires may be met in many areas of life, not necessarily in work. Knowing what you truly desire requires spiritual maturity, perhaps more than you may have at the moment you’re facing a decision.

But at least you can get rid of the idea that God only calls you to something you hate. In this light, Frederick Buechner writes: “The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”


Excerpt from the Theology of Work Project’s eBook Calling: A Biblical Perspective.


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