A Prayer for My Calling and Contentment

I am still slowly reading Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer (Priscilla Shirer). The chapter titled “Your Fears: Confronting Your Worries, Claiming Your Calling” was especially timely. As I read it, my church was going through a sermon series on being called – called to flourish, called to walk worthily, called to the cross, etc. I’ve been praying about my calling for years and at last, I am ready to claim it.

Strategy 6 – Against Your Calling

He (Satan) amplifies fear, worry, and anxiety until they’re the loudest voices in your head, causing you to deem the adventure of following God too risky to attempt.

Priscilla Shirer

Shirer began the chapter with a story about a friend who had been trying to decide whether she should cut back on her caseload as a counselor to follow a calling to write about her experiences. She was plagued with doubts and worries about what might happen. What if I can’t do it? What if it all ends up being a total waste of time and energy? What if it’s all just some sort of ego trip or head game, something I’m projecting onto myself?

In a really long sentenced that I’ve shortened, Shirer wrote, “if God has given you clear direction…and your only real reason for resisting Him is because you’re afraid of what following Him down this path might mean or cost or entail, then you’re not only on the threshold of being disobedient, you’re about to miss an opportunity to give God some fresh new glory by doing what He’s wanting to do through you…”

Unfortunately, there is no burning bush. It isn’t always easy to tell if God has given you clear direction, especially when you feel pulled in other directions and you keep hearing the voices of worry and self-doubt.

It is simplistic to suggest that fear of the unknown is the only reason for resisting God’s calling. Four years ago, I thought I was taking a leap of faith when I quit my job of eight years. I intended to begin a new chapter in my life. Instead, after a couple of months, I found another accounting job and I’m right back where I was, longing do something meaningful with the rest of my life. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

I find my desire for safety and security at war with my desire to do something more meaningful, something that fulfills and motivates me. I have battled to make the right decision even though my job has left me feeling trapped and unfulfilled.

In another chapter of Fervent, “Your Pressures: Reclaiming Peace, Rest and Contentment,” I found clues that explain my own resistance to God’s calling. In my 35 year career, I have felt pressure to keep doing, to keep performing, to keep achieving, to keep being the perfect employee, to keep bringing home the bacon.

Strategy 8 – Against Your Rest and Contentment

He (Satan) hopes to overload your life and schedule, pressuring you to constantly push beyond your limits, never feeling permission to say no.

Priscilla Shirer

In this chapter, Shirer wrote about the biblical command of the Sabbath. Why is it so hard, she asked, for some of us to rest, pull back, take a deep breath, and step away from our day-to-day responsibilities? She suggested that it is because we think the way a slave thinks. We’ve been trained to not say no. While I wouldn’t describe myself as a slave, I have felt like a person living in bondage, like I owe my employer a debt I can never pay off, like I can’t leave because people need me too much.

Fear and insecurity also play a role in the way we respond to the pressures of life. We worry about impressing people and proving our worth. We act as if the only way we can gain favor is to work and produce. We’re afraid we won’t have enough, won’t be enough, if we don’t keep going, pushing, achieving. Shirer wrote that the pressures we put on ourselves can be a sign of idolatry. We make idols out of our reputations, our achievements, our self-reliance.

Fear and insecurity have kept me from following God’s calling. The pressure to achieve and to please other people has kept me bound to my career.

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Lord Jesus,

Thank you for being patient with me as I struggle with my doubts and insecurities. Anyone else would have given up on me by now. You have always been faithful, never leaving my side. You are my hope and my strength.

Father, my pastor said that the more we get to know You, the better we will hear Your call. I pray this is so. It has been hard for me see the clear direction of Your calling when I keep hearing the voices of doubt and worry.

I can’t help but wonder if the persistent longings of my heart are You calling me. Why was I so obsessed with the desire to leave my home of thirty years to move to a state I had only visited once? Why, after thinking about moving for a couple of years, did I finally make the leap just a few months before the pandemic? And how can I explain the presence of people in my life who unknowingly gave me the courage to step out in faith?

Lord, Priscilla said that a free woman has the God-given ability to know when You are asking her to do something. A free woman has the discernment to know her limits and to know when she needs to pause. Thank you for giving me the clarity and the gentle nudge I need. I want to be free of the ties that bind me to my job.

Just as I felt a persistent yearning to move, I now feel a persistent longing to retire, to stop earning and achieving. The desire to do something more meaningful with my life, to be Your hands and feet, has not gone away. I can see now that by clinging to the attachments of this world, I am missing out on the opportunity to do what You want to do through me. Forgive me for resisting this yearning.

Lord Jesus, I am weary of working. I am ready to take your yoke upon me and to serve others for you. I pray for courage. I pray for the right timing. I pray that you will lead my employer to the right replacement.

Amen

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Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

One Incident Commander

My pastor recently started a new sermon series on spiritual disciplines we did not choose. Topics will include persecution and suffering, aging, God’s silence, difficult people, rejection and loneliness. Pastor Brad had planned to talk about aging on Mother’s Day but a couple of things happened during the week that caused him to change his mind. A friend of his passed away and there was yet another school shooting in our community.

At the time of the Columbine High School shooting, my pastor was serving as a chaplain for the county sheriff’s department. He got a call to go to the elementary school to be with the parents who were waiting for their kids. After the Aurora theater shooting, he spent hours in the waiting room and at the bedside of a survivor from our church. About five years ago, there was a school shooting at the high school his daughters attended so again, it hit close to home. Last week, there was a school shooting at the STEM charter school in our community.

I can understand why my pastor had too much on his mind to talk about aging. It is hard enough to deal with the grief of losing a friend. But once again, Brad had to counsel parents who feel sad and helpless about school safety and to try to find something positive and encouraging to say to mothers.

So he spoke about trouble instead.

Jesus did not tell us that life would be easy. No, he said you will have trouble. Trouble comes in many ways. The Greek word thlipsis means pressure, affliction, tribulation, anguish, persecution.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

Timothy wrote that there would be terrible times in the last days. Every time I read this scripture, it strikes me that the last days sound a lot like now. People today are just like Timothy described – self-centered, greedy, brutal.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

2 Timothy 3:1-5

Pastor Brad told us that police have learned a couple of important lessons from Columbine. Too many people tried to take charge at Columbine and the response was not well directed and coordinated. In an active shooter situation, police used to set up a secure perimeter around the building and wait for SWAT to arrive. Now police officers know that there must be one and only one incident commander and it doesn’t have to be the highest ranking person. Now, instead of waiting, the first officer on the scene acts immediately to get to the shooter.

It’s easy to get discouraged when you see how messed up this world is. Jesus wanted us to be prepared for trials and tribulation. But he also wanted us to be at peace. He wanted us to take heart. He was not defeated by this world and he has equipped his followers to be overcomers.

God is the first incident commander. He is with you. Do not be discouraged. Do not be afraid. Put on his armor. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:14-15). In good times and bad times, commit yourself to him and continue to do the right thing.

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

1 Peter 4:19