Where Logic Meets Love

Does God Have One Right Job in Mind for Me?

Friday, July 12, 2013

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Does God Have a Job in Mind for Me? | Faith Permeating Life

When I shared what not to say to a friend going through a tough time, I mentioned how annoying it is when people offer certainties about things they can't actually be sure about (as in, "I'm sure you'll find the right partner soon" or "I'm sure your business deal will go through.")

Now that I've been back on the job hunt again, I've realized that there is an insidious faith-based spin on this: the "God will..." or "God must..." tactic.

"I'm sure God will heal you from this disease."

"God must have someone special in mind for you."

"I'm sure God will bless you with many children."

And so, when my most recent job rejection happened (which was a surprise and a major blow -- apparently I impressed them too much and they thought the job wouldn't be challenging enough for me), I had a whole bunch of people tell me, "God must have a specific job in mind for you, and I'm sure you'll get it soon."

I can't believe this. I don't want to believe this.

There are a few problems with this "God is directing your job search" idea.

First, I had a horrible experience with my last job, even though, as you might remember, I thought it was the perfect job for me. Was God carefully guiding that job search? If so, either God was incredibly cruel to want me in that job, or I managed to miss all the signs steering me away from it. If every job I get is pre-ordained by God, then God doesn't seem to care very much about my mental and emotional well-being. And if I just completely screwed up and missed God's guidance, who's to say that couldn't happen again?

Second, the "one right job" idea is just as problematic as the "one right person" idea in dating. PerfectNumber628 has written several posts on why this idea is problematic in the realm of dating. Essentially: Only one of the seven billion people out there is truly compatible with you, and you're supposed to just find them? And even if you believe God is going to bring that person to you, that means you have to evaluate each person you meet not just as "Would I like to spend more time with this person?" but "Is this the soul mate God has brought me?" And every relationship problem becomes not, "Is this relationship still what I want out of a relationship?" but "Is this a sign from God that we should break up?" That's a lot of pressure!

Similarly, when I start believing there's one right job out there that God wants me to have, every job posting has that much more pressure on it. It's hard enough trying to figure out "Is this a job I'd be interested in? Am I qualified for this job? How much time would working and commuting to this job take per week?" but when I throw in, "Are there signs that God wants me in this job?" it becomes even more ambiguous and stressful.

And then the worst part is when I start thinking, "This really feels right. This feels like where I'm meant to be," and then I get turned down for the job! If God really has a job in mind for me, then I clearly have no idea how to figure out what that is, because I keep getting it wrong!

Also, this kind of thinking puts more importance on the job I end up in than I think it really deserves. I appreciated that my counselor continually stressed that whatever decision I made about a job or career path was something I was doing "for now." I'd like to find a job I can be in long term, but I may decide to cut back when we have kids or move somewhere else if a different opportunity comes along. I may decide to stop applying for a while and focus on my freelance work, and I want the flexibility to say, "This isn't working" and start applying again. But if I feel like this is my God-ordained job, that seems to take my own agency and ability to make changes to my life out of the equation.

And along the same lines, if I take "God is directing your job search" to its logical conclusion, then it seems like I could just stop everything I'm doing -- applying to jobs, networking, telling people what I'm looking for -- and eventually someone will magically offer me the job where God wants me to be. Somehow it doesn't seem right that I just sit on my butt and say I'm waiting for God's chosen job to show up.

Don't get me wrong. I think it's possible for God to guide someone's job search. When Mike got his job out here, it felt to both of us throughout the entire process that there were giant God-arrows pointing us here, as there were just far too many coincidences and signs to ignore. We are both incredibly happy here, and I think it would be wrong to say that trusting God played no role in his applying for and accepting this job. And I believe pretty strongly that God brought Mike into my life.

But do I believe that this is the only job Mike could have been happy in, or that if I'd never met Mike I necessarily would have never married or had a happy marriage? No.

So to all the people who are sure that God has a particular job in mind for me: I know you mean well, but you're really not making me feel any better. I believe God gave me a lot of wonderful skills and the ability to seek out and apply for jobs, and I believe that God has answered my prayers in helping me to do my absolute best in each of the interviews I've had. But I don't believe I'm on a hunt for the one God-approved job out there for me.

What are your feelings on God having a plan for your work life or love life? Do you find the "one right one" idea reassuring or frustrating?

17 comments:

  1. Thinking about God's plan too much makes me dizzy. Because then you have to get into, "Well, did Bad Thing X happen so that Good Thing Y could happen later? Or was Bad Thing X a deviation from God's plan?" I think it's best not to try to figure it out at all. In any case, I hope there's a great job for you in the near future.

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    1. It seems there are as many opinions on how much God "plans" our lives as there are answers to the "why is there evil?" question, both of which stem from how much control God has or exerts over our day-to-day lives and choices. I tend to lean more toward the free will side and farther away from the humans-as-puppets side.

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  2. You have put it very well here. I don't find it at all reassuring to think of God micromanaging my life, good, bad, and indifferent--more crazy-making, searching for meaning in every insignificant thing. How about, "You're a smart person and if you keep working at it, chances are, you'll find your niche." It doesn't have the fairy-tale ending, but it's *true.*

    I do kind of feel like I would likely not have married had I not met DOB--and he feels like he would have married but hated it had he not met me--but I think that's just because we're both very quirky and therefore had a pretty small set of options to begin with, not because there was some magical one right one. We definitely lucked out in finding each other. Some people have smaller sets of options inherently (whether in relationships, jobs, whatever) which makes finding something that works all the more noticeable. But that's not the same thing as magic direction--mostly, it's just that persistence and openness to possibilities eventually leads to something. The advantage of not having a lot of inherent options is it's easier to recognize ones that will work, because at some point you have to be willing to shut off the other options and commit if you're going to reap any of the benefits.

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    1. I think you describe this well. It reminds me of The Luck Factor (which I recommended back in April), which argues that there's no such thing as luck, there's just a set of skills that make it more likely something will come along that feels like luck.

      Before I met Mike, I thought I would stay single and also thought I'd never find anyone who saw the world the same way I did. So I do tend to feel that I'd never have gotten married if I hadn't met him. But I don't think that's necessarily true (I was surprised to meet him; I could have been surprised again), whereas the "one right person" concept means Mike is 100% the only person I could have ever been happy with.

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  3. I think there's a big difference between your vocation (what God is calling you to do with your life) and your job. I used to think they had to line up perfectly or my life would be less meaningful and less pleasing to God. Now, having been at a job that doesn't have much to do at all with my vocation for several years, I've realized that I can always pursue my vocation no matter what my job is, and that pretty much any job can help me learn skills that I can apply to my vocation.

    God is with you, no matter how this shakes out. There's nowhere you can go to escape God, who is with you when things feel perfect and when they feel all wrong (to paraphrase Psalm 139:8).

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    1. Absolutely -- I don't think my ability to contribute to the kingdom of God is constrained by whether or not I end up in a certain job.

      I find it much more reassuring to think about God being with me in my job search than God hands-on directing my job search.

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  4. This way of thinking also makes it a lot easier to lock ourselves into one path. If God has just the right job out there for you, will you consider staying home with kids, or going out on a mission field? If God has the perfect spouse out there, will you consider that marriage isn't everyone's path? And what do you do in the meantime - are you missing what you could be doing here and now while you're trying to find God's job or spouse or whatever for you? It's a dangerous business to put our hopes and dreams onto God's will.

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    1. This particularly bothers me in the realm of dating/marriage, the idea that "God has someone out there for you!" This assumes that the speaker knows God isn't calling that person to a single life, and as you say, it could very well cause someone to ignore the call to another path because they're still waiting for their God-ordained spouse to show up.

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    2. Bit late thought here, but I also noticed how much privilege and assumptions these things carry. The "right one" that people look for is almost always a heterosexual partner. And it's easy to read our other assumptions of what a "good partner" is into the traits of "the one", without considering what might be out there. What if I want to date a woman? What if I date a disabled person, or a person who doesn't have a good job? It's easy to form our picture of the one for us so well that we ignore people we would fit well with because they don't fit our mental image.

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    3. Also true -- when we think of "the one right person" it's likely that image will be constructed from messages we've received over time about who is and is not an acceptable partner.

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  5. Oh dude. Yes, totally agree with all of this. (And thanks for linking to my posts!) When I was looking for a job recently, for a while I was trying to find a Christian organization and be a missionary, but then I got all kinds of questions about whether God is "calling" me and if I'm "sure this is where God wants me" and geez, no God's not calling me, I just want this job because it seems like a good thing.

    And eventually I got rejected and I felt like, "wow, I'm glad I didn't actually convince myself that THIS IS THE job where God wants me."

    So yes at this point I do have a job and it's really awesome, but... what was God's role in making it happen? I have no idea. I really feel like I did it all myself. But, you know, Christians aren't allowed to say that.

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    1. That's the thing -- if you feel God is calling you to a job, and then you don't get it, there's really no good explanation except "you were wrong about where God wants you." So then when you do get a job, you're supposed to feel like, oh, you were finally right this time about where God wants you? I get that some people cling to that explanation because they feel they can't hold onto their faith otherwise. But I think you can still believe in God, and just believe that God gives you skills and abilities but that a hiring committee still has free will to make a final decision using their own God-given brains.

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    2. Haha- I always kind of wondered, for Christian organizations where you have to be "called" or whatever, why do they bother having a whole hiring process?

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  6. I'm not especially religious (although I was raised semi-Catholic) and I still relate to this. My issue isn't so much whether something is God's plan, specifically, but whether it's the one right thing. Instead of worrying, "Is this what God wants for me?" it's "Is this TRULY the right person for me?" or "Is this REALLY the job I'm SUPPOSED to have?" I think life would be pretty horrible if there were really only one "right" option for each of us, whether in work or love or whatever else.

    And sometimes, I do hear people say things like, "I'm just waiting for the job God has in mind for me," and it seems as though it's just a way to not put in any of the work themselves, you know?

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    1. The "one right one" narrative definitely permeates beyond Christian culture (e.g., soul mates, fate), though I think it's perhaps most pronounced there. And no matter the context, I don't think it's particularly helpful.

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  7. I cannot say that God has a specific "career job" for me, BUT I do know that God has assignments for us all, if that means that you are ready to move to another opportunity, for whatever reason (Loss of a job, not happy in your current job, looking for more pay and responsibilities) I know that God has EVERYTHING to do with our footsteps.

    God will open doors, wherever He sees fit for you to go next. Remember, assignments are ways that God has us to work on His plans for our life, or maybe even in someone else life.

    If you are praying for another opportunity to come along, and God is not finished with you at your current job, He will keep you there, until He sees fit to move you to another place. It is God that brings opportunities to us in the first place.

    I will tell everyone, from experience, Pray and ask, have faith, and God will deliver you where it is that He wants you to be. I have had interviews where I felt it was the perfect role for me, I interviewed well, but end up not getting the position. When this has happened, I've been hurt, but I realize too, that IF that was the door that my God wanted me to go through, nothing in the world would have stopped it from happening.

    Always know that God has our BEST interest at hand, and He will NOT lead us astray.

    Trust Him!!!

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