A couple of summers ago, I attended a training on postpartum mood disorders. After sharing all sorts of helpful treatment techniques, the instructor concluded with a discussion on the lack of postpartum resources in our town.
As I drove home at the end of the day, I weighed my recent decision to leave my career as a professional counselor. Like the rain-cloud-laden sky, my heart was heavy. Women need access to good therapists trained in postpartum wellness, I thought. I have something our community needs and women can benefit from, yet I’m not making it available.
I felt as though I was depriving my community of a valuable resource. Was it a mistake—even selfish—to not offer a service that was both vital and within my power to provide?
Then, like a pebble in a pool, these words dropped into my mind: I’m qualified, but I’m not called.
God was once again convicting me that in spite of my qualifications, and my desire to encourage and serve women, He was not calling me to minister to them through a career in professional counseling.
With a near constant demand on our time and talents, it’s far too easy to fall into the trap of doing things simply because other people want and “need” us to do them. Interesting opportunities may fall into our laps and because we can, because we’re available, or because we’re qualified, we too often feel like we should jump in.
The opportunities before me are endless. I could organize a fundraiser for a local nonprofit. I could serve at my local food bank. I could work as a mental health counselor, helping women overcome past trauma. Over the years, I have been asked to volunteer on various boards and even to be a part of the church worship team. I’ve been offered cleaning jobs, counseling jobs, and childcare jobs. I could do any of these things and do them well.
But does that mean I should?
QUALIFICATION VERSUS CALLING
When we act based on whether we can, whether it’s good, or whether we feel we should, we’re missing an important part of the equation—whether or not we’re called.
If I’m not careful, I could end up spending all my time on noble endeavors but fail to fulfill the most important one—the one God has directed me, specifically, to do.
I’ve learned that instead of asking, “Am I qualified?” I’m better off asking, “Am I called?” Answering this question requires us to discern the difference between what God is asking us to do and what our culture, family, or friends say we should do. It means surrendering what seems to be the most logical, practical, or profitable path and trusting that God knows what is best.
It’s not that qualifications don’t matter. But our qualifications are secondary to our calling. We fit our qualifications to our calling, not the other way around.
But what about when we don’t know what God wants us to do?
We seek God’s heart. We pray. We pay attention to words of wisdom or encouragement from mentors or pastors. We tune in to the dreams and desires He has planted within us. As we do these things, God makes clear the good deeds He has planned for us.
Once we know what He is leading us to do, then we can assess how any qualifications we have might serve our specific call. Our skills, passions, experiences, personality, and credentials are important, but they are not an end in and of themselves. As we offer all that we are to God, He guides us in the best way to use our gifts to further His kingdom.
AN EXAMPLE TO FOLLOW
We find a wonderful role model for trusting God’s guidance in what to do—or not do—with our qualifications, in the apostle Paul.
Paul was the embodiment of Jewish piety. In his letter to the Philippians, he lists his impressive credentials: “Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:5-6, NIV).
To the Galatians, Paul declared that, prior to his conversion, he “was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (Galatians 1:14, NIV).
Paul was the Michael Jordan of Jews. He was the best of the best. Who better to take the good news of Jesus to the Jews than this quintessential Jewish man? After his conversion, it would have made perfect sense for him to become a missionary to the people whose culture, history, law, and religion he knew inside out.
Yet, God didn’t send him to the Jews. Instead, God told him, “Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles” (Acts 22:21, NIV). I wonder what Paul thought when he received this directive. Was he puzzled by this seeming side-step of his qualifications? Seeing needs we could fill but that don’t line up with our own unique, God-given assignments can be painful. The Jews needed ministers of the Good News just as much as the Gentiles. Did Paul feel a pang of worry about who would reach them in his place?
While we can only speculate on what he may have thought or felt when he received God’s call, one thing is clear—Paul trusted God and was committed to following His leading even if it didn’t make complete sense. He had faith that God would provide for the Jews as well as the Gentiles.
LISTENING FOR THE CALL
Like Paul, remaining committed to our personal mission requires us to trust that God will send others to meet the needs we ourselves are not called to fill.
Not long after that postpartum training, I bumped into the director of our local youth homeless shelter, who invited me to consider being a shelter board member. Was I qualified? Yes. Was the cause worthy? Definitely.
Was I called? No. Since I had a clear sense of what God wanted me to be focusing on in that season, I knew my answer almost immediately and declined the opportunity.
My husband, however, felt differently. He was with me during this conversation, and the director had extended the invitation to him as well. As he considered serving the youth shelter in this way, he felt God moving in his heart, and a few weeks later he agreed to join the board. He felt and followed the call, and that’s what matters.
God will always provide, both for us and for the needs of others. As we release responsibilities that don’t belong to us, we can confidently and joyfully move forward in our own unique assignments, knowing we are just where God wants us to be!
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