"I'm tired of jobs that pay the bills, but leave me feeling empty," John said at the beginning of his career counseling session. "I'll be 43 this year and I want to make a change while there's still time. I want to find my calling." John represents hundreds of Americans who aren't satisfied with having "just a job." They want more from their work than just a paycheck; they want to feel they are investing the best of themselves in something that really matters.

A Secular View of Calling

"Most of us are looking for a calling, not a job," says Nora Watson in her interview for Studs Terkel's classic book Working. "Most of us . . . have jobs that are too small for our spirit." Nora compared her job with that of her father, who had felt his work was "a profession of himself" and a calling.

The American culture encourages us to look to our work for our sense of purpose and calling. An article in Fast Company described how "work has become how we define ourselves....Work is no longer just about economics; it's about identity." We have been told that finding our calling is the same as getting our dream job or doing what we love. But is society's definition of "calling" a biblical one, as well?

A Biblical Perspective on Calling

Without a doubt, work is important to God. From the beginning of time, He has given human beings work to do. At its best, work uses our unique gifts and abilities and provides opportunities to make a difference in the world around us. The Bible, however, reveals that work is not our central calling. When the word "calling" is used in Scripture, it most often refers to our calling to a relationship with God. There are no biblical examples of "calling" referring to paid employment. Although God has designed each of us for special tasks and assignments, His calling for us is much greater and more soul-satisfying than a summons to work. Before being called to something, we are called to Someone.

Os Guinness makes a helpful distinction between our primary calling and our secondary callings. Our primary calling is to be in a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that God has created us to be his and to have a significant place in this world. As we live our primary calling, God enables us to see ourselves and the world around us differently. The closer we walk with God, the more we understand God's agenda for humanity and our part in it.

Incredibly, God calls us to be his "fellow workers" (1 Cor. 3:9). Embracing us as his partners to help fulfill his purposes on earth, God calls us to various tasks and life roles. These are our secondary callings, which include such life roles as parent, spouse, family member, worker, student, church member, citizen, friend, and neighbor. Our secondary callings provide the contexts in which we can live our primary calling to follow Jesus.

Finding Your Calling within Work

Your work, or vocational calling, is one of your secondary callings. It is inextricably connected to your primary calling to be in relationship with God. The English word vocation has its origin in the Latin word "vocare," which means "to call." Your vocational calling is a summons from God to use your gifts in the world whether it be within paid employment, the home, or volunteer activities.

Finding your vocational calling is a journey. There are five levels of vocational fit that you can use to assess where you currently are on that journey. See if you can determine which of the five levels of vocational fit best describes your work situation. From there, you can begin to discern what -- if any -- changes need to be made in your professional life.