Few of us will step into our calling without some level of opposition or conflict. Sometimes, the opposition is overt and impossible to overlook. Karen* felt called to study theology. When the opportunity finally came for her to attend seminary, however, she faced intense resistance from her family. They eventually issued her an ultimatum: quit seminary or they’d stop communicating with her.
On other occasions, the opposition is covert. Beth’s* husband was the leading candidate for a full-time pastoral position. Late in the process, the church flew them both down for a final interview. They offered the job to someone else, but not because Beth’s husband blew the interview. In her words, “They ultimately told him no because of me—because I feel called to preach and teach. The hard part is I wasn't even asking for pulpit time.”
Conflict connected to our calling can also be internal. When Deidre transforms a blank canvas with bold brush strokes and vibrant colors, she feels fully alive and connected to God. Guilt sometimes eclipses that powerful connection, however, because the time spent painting does not necessarily translate to income. She has wondered, “What right do I have to go to the studio when my husband works such long hours to provide for us?” The comments made by church leaders hinting that her time would be better spent doing ministerial work have further complicated her ability to be at peace with her calling as an artist.
Three different women. Three different callings. All of them have faced some type of conflict or opposition. If conflict drags on and we fail to resolve it, we may succumb to doubt, or, like Jonah, run from God’s call.
The Internal Swirl
After the church communicated to Beth and her husband that they were offering the position to another candidate, she admitted,
It was the first time I thought, If this is a detriment to my husband’s wellbeing, is this really God's call? I felt very guilty—that somehow my calling was in the way of his. I questioned, What if I'm wrong? Even if I have gifting and passion, what if I’m not supposed to do this? What if this is a moment to quit?
Like Beth, I, too, have wondered if I misunderstood God’s call. I recognize how my teaching and mentoring gifts benefit the body of Christ. But, because I’ve never gone to seminary or had an older, more experienced mentor, I can all too easily second guess my instincts.
When doubt creeps in, it handicaps me. Rather than leading a prayer time with full confidence that God will back me, I become tentative and preface my prayers with caveats. Doubt also causes me to endlessly review what I did or didn’t say. If I fail to shut down the enemy’s accusations, God’s voice is drowned out by my discouragement, anger, or self-pity.