Do you wonder what you’re supposed to be doing with your life? Do you wonder if you’re in the right job or following the right career path? You’re not alone when you think about things like that. Many people wonder about the purpose of their life and their vocation.
But it can get a little disheartening if you start entangling your life purpose with the job where you work each day. Because while jobs come and go, your life purpose is set inside of God’s specific and beautiful design for your life.
It’s easy to mix your life purpose—or identity—with your vocation. For many people, myself included, the two get so intertwined that they seem like one big thing. But they’re not.
One is about your God-gifted value, and that has nothing to do with work. It has to do with your personality, your passion, and your preferences. The other is about your vocational expression of those things.
“Your identity as a child of God gives your life meaning and purpose. Relationships with other people improve as you relate to them withJesus Always, March 10
love and forgiveness.”
Understanding the difference between identity and vocation will give you a ton of understanding and help you breathe a little easier. So let’s separate them out.
Identity is who you are, and who you are defines your worth. You are made in the image of God. You are unique. There is no one like you. That uniqueness includes your gifting, your personality, your skill set. You were made by God and for God, and He crafted you with His design in mind (Colossians 1:16). You are also called to minister to others. That is who you are. That is your life purpose.
The vocation part is what you choose to do with your time, like your work, and there’s a lot of wiggle room inside that. During the course of their lives, I think most people do a lot of different things vocationally. For me, I can think of about ten jobs I’ve had between the ages of twenty and fifty. I’ve been a pre-school teacher, a drama instructor, a public speaker, an author, a radio co-host. I’ve created small businesses that brought in income to help with our family budget.
Vocationally, I’ve been all over the map. If I defined my worth or identity by my ability to stay the course doing one thing vocationally or by making big money, I’d feel like a colossal failure. Instead, I stay focused on my identity before God. I am made by Him and for Him, and in all the things I’ve chosen to do, I try to honor Him.
“The path I have called you to travel is exquisitely right for you. The more closely you follow My leading the more fully I can develop your gifts.”
–Jesus Calling, July 20
In his book Prayers from the Heart, theologian Richard Foster talks about his life purpose in a way that resonates with me: “My whole life, in one sense, has been an experiment in how to be a portable sanctuary, learning to practice the presence of God.”
Everywhere you go, as you practice the presence of God in your life, you’re like a small sanctuary to the people closest by. So that means when you’re on the way to work and you interact with the barista in the morning, you’re standing there as a respite, giving life and comfort to the person you’re talking to. As you hold a baby or read to a toddler, you’re offering them sanctuary as you abide with God. Maybe in your high-pressure job, your calm demeanor is a comfort to people who don’t know or even care about God.
In each scenario, there you are, a portable sanctuary, a daily relief. It’s that simple.
A lot of times, I think we try to make this connection between our identity and our vocation too intense and difficult, like being a minister for God means you should pack up your life and move to a third-world country to be a missionary. You could be called to that, and it could be dreamy and exotic in a sacrificial kind of way. But more likely, your ministry for God is right where you are, in your home and at your work.