I recently applied for some jobs for the first time in twelve years. Cue (in between much prayer) panic, self doubt and the distinct feeling that I’m really, really not in control.
When making big life decisions, here is a proverb that we might find helpful:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
(As an aside: it seems to me that British Christians are not too hot on the book of Proverbs. Not sure why that is? I’ve made a sweeping genrealisation there and I’m not going to delete it! I’ll get back to you if I make any headway on Proverbs. I bought that Tim Keller book but I think it might be stuck under my bed somewhere.)
In the midst of the job hunting, I attended a seminar about being a Christian millennial (I don’t consider myself a millennial but was hoping to gain sympathy for them), and one of the things that came up was the struggle with making decisions. Rachel Jones (she’s written a book – here it is), had a simple list that people could use which would help them to make decisions. I believe that this sort of practical wisdom is needed, especially if the decision you’re making seems like it could change the course of your life.
I believe that, but not everybody does. It seems to me that there are two common ways to look at a big crossroads-type moment in your life. And I think I can flit between both of these methods:
One is to read the above Proverb and then wait on the Lord for him to show you the straight path. The Lord knows which job he wants me in. Therefore I’ll pray a prayer of submission to God’s will (v6) and wait for a strong feeling about one of them. Or I’ll wait for a clear sign that I should take one and not the other. I’m not leaning on my own understanding (v5), so that means I need to allow God to show me the right path.
Method number two might be seen as a more practical approach. This is where we know that God cares about our hearts, and in his grace he’s given us practical wisdom. So I’m going to focus on loving God with all my heart, submitting to him, and therefore it doesn’t matter which job I choose. I don’t need to panic, because the job I do day-to-day doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. I can stack shelves or sell stocks and shares – what God looks at is my heart. As long as I’m working for him and his glory, I’m free to choose any job I like.
There is truth in both of these, but my recent job hunt reminded/taught me that there is an important middle ground. I’m a conservative evangelical Christian, and my church culture would favour method number two. We don’t sit around waiting for signs from God. We pray, then we do something. I think we even read books with titles like that. But what I was recently reminded of is that God does actually really care what job I do. And he can intervene. And he does intervene! He intervenes more than we conservative, pro/con list-writers like to admit.
It’s easy to think that it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it’s for the glory of God. But that’s not quite right! God’s word says “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31.) It’s not that God doesn’t care what you do, but he does care much more about how you do it.*
Hunting for my job, I prayed and agonised over decisions, but in the end I just had to do what to me seemed best. I applied for the only job that seemed to be an option. And God intervened in a ridiculous way. (It all coincided with a big multi-church weekend away I was on, so those who didn’t see me coming and hide got to hear all about it in real time.) And looking back on it, I’m really encouraged that God does care massively what job I do, and he has good things in store for me, and he does direct the course of events for his own glory.
So as I’m praying for my children – what school they should go to, what activities they should do, what jobs they might do in the future – it’s such a joy to remember that a) God cares much more about their hearts than any of that other stuff, and b) he does care what they do, and he will have them on the path he’s prepared in advance for them to be on.
*This reminded me of a very specific bit in The West Wing. See here if you’re interested!