"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. Jobs are not big enough for people." She compared her job with that of her father, who had felt his work was "a profession of himself" and a calling.

Many people feel trapped in work that provides a paycheck but little else. They find they have little opportunity to use their gifts or do anything that is personally meaningful. Have you reached a point in your life where you know that what you are doing is not enough? Are you looking for your calling rather than settling for just another job?

Understanding Your "Primary Calling" vs. Your "Secondary Callings"

Most of us spend 60% or more of our lives working. The right job can give you opportunities to use your unique gifts and abilities to make a positive difference in the world. Being in the wrong job can be agonizing, affecting every area of your life.

As you seek to find work that is a calling, however, it is important to realize that your work is not your most important calling. There is a critical distinction between your "primary calling" to follow Jesus and your "secondary callings," or life roles, which include your work:

The Bible...reveals that work is not our central calling. There are no biblical examples of someone being called to paid employment.... Before being called to something, we are called to Someone. Before being called to do, we are called to be.

Our primary calling is to be in a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that God has called us into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ....Our primary calling is not tied to our employment.... God values us for who we are, not for what we can produce or achieve within work. God's call to us is an eternal one that encompasses and transcends our temporal activities....

Your work, or vocational calling, is one of your secondary callings.... 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. [As Os Guinness says,] "But these and other things are always the secondary, never the primary calling. They are ‘callings' rather than the ‘calling.' They are our personal answer to God's address, our response to God's summons. Secondary callings matter, but only because the primary calling matters most."  (Live Your Calling, pp. 5-8)

Therefore, if you are a Christian who is seeking to follow Jesus each and every day, you have already found your most important calling! You can live this calling even if you are unemployed or in work that doesn't fit you well. The more diligently you are seeking to live your primary calling, the more effectively the Lord can guide you in finding your vocational calling (that is, work that fits your gifts and brings a deep sense of purpose and significance.)

What Should I Do with My Life?

God prods us into action in many ways. He can even use negative feelings such as discontentment and confusion, or positive emotions like energy and enthusiasm about doing something new in our lives. There also are several natural "choice points" in our lives in which we find ourselves asking questions like "Who am I?" and "What is God calling me to do next?" For example, 

  • Jacqueline, age 21, said: "I'll finish college this year, and I really want to do something significant with my life. I know God has given me gifts, but I don't know exactly what they are or what I should do when I graduate. I'm trying to figure it all out, but I'm feeling pretty confused."
  • Bill, age 35, experienced a wake-up call in his life: "My job pays well, but it's really stressful. I recently took a hard look at my work, and realized that I have been sacrificing not only my health, but also my family, for a job that really isn't making much of a positive contribution in this world. Success isn't what I thought it would be. I need to find out what God put me on earth to do, but I don't know how to go about figuring that out."
  • At 45, Linda entered a new chapter of life: "My children are out of the house now, and I'm finding I don't really know who I am and what the Lord wants me to do with my time. Raising kids was my calling, but there's got to be more He has for me to do now. I'm just not sure what to do!"

These types of life situations, as well as many others, create a sense of needing to "do something" to find work that fits and brings a sense of purpose to our lives. You may be feeling a restless energy that is propelling you to take action. The problem, however, is that often the actions people take end up creating more confusion or getting them into jobs that don't fit them well, thus deepening their sense of dissatisfaction.