What does God want me to do with my life? Where is he calling me? Will I ever find my vocation? Few things cause as much anxiety for Christian young people as vocational discernment. I’ve been there, and I’ve seen it — over and over again.
Yet St. Paul tells us to “have no anxiety at all” (Phil 4:6), and Blessed Solanus Casey cautions us to “be on guard against” worry as “this most insidious enemy of our peace of soul.” God’s plan for vocational discernment is one of peace, trust and freedom, not one of anxiety and fear. If you are in a place of seeking God’s will for your life, I pray that these reflections will lead you to peace in the present.
We all too easily buy into the lie that, if God calls us to a certain thing, we are just going to have to grit our teeth and bear it — that we will somehow manage to do it for love of God. That is not God’s vision of vocation! While our vocations will challenge us, they will not leave us miserable. God uses our vocations to make us happy. When we sincerely seek God’s will for our lives, he molds our hearts to his perfect plan and fulfills the deepest desires of our hearts (cf. Ps 37:4).
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I recall going on a religious sister discernment retreat when I was in college. While I didn’t feel called to a religious vocation, I did feel called to be open to discerning it. This led to nervousness that, because I was open to it, God was going to call me to religious life even though I didn’t “want it.” However, my experience of the retreat was freeing. I walked away with a deeper conviction of the beauty and goodness of religious life, and also a confirmation that it wasn’t where God was calling me. And I’m sure there were other girls who walked away knowing that this was exactly where God was leading them. In both cases, it wasn’t a decision out of fear. It was a conviction arising out of an experience of God’s love.
Live the present
Years ago, I came across a bookmark which read, “Serve the garden where you have been placed.” That wisdom continues to reecho in my mind. Right now, you are in a certain place for a purpose. You are called to serve where you are. To paraphrase St. Thérèse, you are called to be a flower along whatever path you are walking. In truth, the only moment you ever get to live is now. So we might as well all work on getting good at it!
We can be in a big hurry to find our vocations and “settle down,” but there is no need to force it. God knows how and when to tell us when he wants us to move or adjust our lives. At least in my life, God seems to share the next step of his plan on a need-to-know basis. We don’t need to know what is next until we are there, probably largely because knowing too much would distract us from living in the present moment. And while it may seem scary to not know the future, I can assure you that it makes life a glorious adventure. God wants to offer you a life full of adventure, purpose and surprises. Let him do it!
Ultimately, we all have the same primary vocation. Your vocation is to love. I am not being dismissive of the real need to discern. But that said, if you don’t know your secondary vocation, it doesn’t matter all that much after all. Uncertainty about the next stage in your life shouldn’t dictate your level of contentment, peace or joy. You can still live your primary vocation. Choose to love where you are, and let God sort out the rest.
What if I miss it?
Perhaps the most crippling vocational fear is that we are somehow going to miss God’s plan for our lives because of our incompetence, sin or inability to hear his voice. You can’t do a single thing to change the past, but God can do everything to redeem it. In simplest terms: live in the state of grace, pray sincerely every day (this means both talking and listening), and say yes to what you know God is calling you to do today. If you do those three things, I assure you, you will not miss God’s plan for your life!
In fact, thinking that you will be able to “miss” God’s plan for your life when you are sincerely seeking it is utter nonsense. What that fear really boils down to is a belief that God is somehow not powerful enough to weave through your mistakes, possible misunderstandings, and moments of deafness to lead you to him. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. If you actually are trying to hear and respond to what God is calling you to do, you will not miss his will for your life. Be not afraid!
So what is my vocation?
Your vocation is this: God is calling you to peace in the present moment, living a lifetime of love and watching his perfect plan unfold. Maybe that is all you ever need to know. Next time you fret over your vocation, speak the truth aloud. Live in the freedom of a daughter of God, trusting in his exquisite plan for your life.