Recently, a young man asked me if his passion for old cars could really be part of his “God-ordained purpose” or if it’s just his self-centered materialistic desire. Is doing something you enjoy just your own selfish desire, or is it a legitimate way to honor God? Have you ever thought that doing God’s will must involve suffering and sacrifice?
We often overlook Psalm 37:4: “Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” God wants to give us not just the bare necessities but the desires of our heart.
1) What is your passion?
Imagine yourself as a parent. You have a 5-year-old little boy, like any little boy, who loves playing with trucks and imagining himself as a big rig driver. What are you likely to get him for Christmas? Are you going to get him a calculator because you want him to grow up to be an accountant? No, you’re going to get him the coolest truck imaginable. What kind of a mom or dad would say. “No, son. Here’s a pipe wrench because I want you to develop a passion for a career in plumbing?”
Do you remember your childhood dreams? All 5-year-olds know how to dream. You know the typical fantasies. We dreamed of becoming a firefighter, astronaut, ship captain, artist or rock star. But then life happens. Some of us were told our dreams were unrealistic. You may have been one of those kids. Somewhere along the way, you were taught to be realistic, to stay inside the lines and recognize that growing up means you need to show up at eight o’clock, do your boring job and go home to a dreary existence at five o’clock.
Maybe as that 5-year-old, you thought you heard God speaking to you in the still of the night—calling you to a certain type of life and a special kind of work. So, what happened? Along the way, in our desire to be responsible, practical and realistic adults, too many of us wildly imaginative kids lost touch with our creative abilities and gave up a commitment to translating our dreams into enjoyable and fulfilling work.
But it doesn’t need to be that way. All of us, no matter how old we are or what kind of work we’re doing, can learn to bring that authentic, childlike creativity and passion to our work.
2) What do you do best?
In fact, the moment you realize that meaningful, purposeful and profitable work really is a possibility, you’ve already taken an important step toward reawakening the dreams and passions you haven’t acted on in years. All of a sudden, complacency and “comfortable misery” become intolerable. The idea of putting your calling on the shelf becomes intolerable. Not only do we have the opportunity, we have the responsibility to spend our working hours in work that will elevate us to our highest calling and transform the world around us.
Yes, meaningful work really is within your grasp. It begins with asking what you do best and then considering how you can engage your talents in daily work.
You can recapture that childlike creativity you may have lost. You can release the dreams and sense of purpose you had as a child. You may find your prayers invigorated, now knowing there is a day-by-day application of God’s design for your life.
And once you’ve opened the door and seen all the exciting career opportunities that await you—whether you decide to revolutionize your current job or launch a new career altogether—you’ll find you can’t go back to the old way of working. It’s like you’ve fanned to life some dying embers, ignited a new flame of possibility. That inner light of our childhood imagination might have been dimmed by our “adult” notions of work, but you can rekindle it again so that you get a real sense of all the possibilities available to you.
We can find ways to express our hopes and dreams in our daily work. I believe that our work can be our best gift to ourselves, our friends and family, our communities—and the best expression of our purpose here on earth. Given the amount of time we spend working, failure to find meaningful, significant work is not just a minor misstep in living out God’s plan—it’s a deeper kind of failure that can make each day feel like living death.
Fulfilling work—work that integrates our talents and our passions, work done for a worthy purpose—has always been a sign of maturity and wisdom.
3) How will you make a profit?
Yes, even when you’ve nailed your calling, you will have bills to pay.
But can we do what we’re best at and do well financially? When my good friend Rabbi Daniel Lapin is asked, “Does God want us to be rich?” he responds by saying, “God wants us to be obsessively preoccupied with the needs of others.” Prospering for the sake of giving to others can be a powerful tool. Having money in itself is not shameful, and it is up to us to put it toward good use.
Too many people shun the idea of making money as evil and believe God’s work can be done only by giving something away. And thus we lead people to an unhealthy dependency, depriving them of releasing their own greatest talents and patting ourselves on the back for doing “ministry.” Money is like fire—it can burn you and leave you disfigured, or it can keep you warm and safe.
Bringing it all together
Paying attention to all three questions will bring you into renewed clarity not only for next steps, but for your long-term vision of calling. Remember what you wanted to be when you were 5? Now, reignite those passions and let your mind run wild as you embrace your calling, and find—or create—work that is meaningful, purposeful and profitable.