By Kevin Brennfleck, Crosswalk.com
Individuals often find themselves at a crossroads in pursuing their career calling, needing to know how to select the right path. Not knowing how to make wise career decisions can lead to making poor career decisions from following "the path of least resistance," which is the easiest path to take. The path of least resistance is tempting because it often requires the least risk and allows one to stay in their comfort zone. In this article, we will examine biblical principles for taking steps outside of your comfort zone to find work that is a calling and not just a job.
The Path of Least Resistance: A Human Inclination
Before we delve into the biblical perspective on career choices, let's explore a fundamental aspect of human nature: the innate tendency to prefer the path of least resistance. This inclination is deeply rooted in our cognitive processes and has been a subject of interest in neuroscience.
A 2017 study published in Open Neuroscience Articles titled "Humans Are Hard-Wired to Follow the Path of Least Resistance" sheds light on this phenomenon. Researchers from University College London found that the effort required to perform a task significantly influences how we perceive it. Our brains tend to perceive challenging tasks as less appealing, and we instinctively gravitate toward easier, less demanding options.
Dr. Nobuhiro Hagura, who led the UCL research team, emphasized that our brains often trick us into believing that the low-hanging fruit is the ripest. This cognitive bias doesn't just affect our behavior but also shapes our perceptions. We tend to underestimate the value of challenging endeavors, believing they are less rewarding or attainable.
The Path of Least Resistance: Biblical Insights
The question arises: Does God call His children to follow the path of least resistance in their careers and life?
In our career counseling with Christian men and women, we often hear, "I fell into my career." "Falling into a career" is an expression used to describe a situation where someone ends up in a particular career or profession without necessarily planning or intending to do so. It often implies that the person didn't have a specific career goal but stumbled upon this path, sometimes by chance, through an opportunity offered by a friend or family member, or through a series of unplanned events. While some may ascribe this as God's will, the truth is that it is often the result of little or no planning or intentional decision-making.
For example, someone might say, "I fell into a career in marketing because my uncle offered me a job at his company." They didn't choose a marketing career but ended up in that field because an opportunity had presented itself. Sometimes, falling into a career can work out well, but often, it results in finding oneself several years later still doing work that isn't satisfying, rewarding, or motivating.
Taking the "path of least resistance" may partially account for the 65% of Americans who are not engaged in their work. They put in their time for a paycheck, getting little else from their work, which can make their job feel like a prison sentence.
When a person is not engaged in their work, they will likely experience a range of negative consequences for themselves and the organizations they work for. A few expected adverse outcomes include decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, a high employer turnover rate, low morale, reduced innovation, and physical and mental health issues such as lower self-esteem. Work satisfaction has been shown to impact not only health but longevity as well. When we are disengaged from our work, we can lose a sense of who we are. This is the time to turn to the Bible, which provides the truth of who we are and what God desires for us. You have a God-given design and have been created for a purpose. You and your work matter to God!
Psalm 139:13-14: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
1 Peter 2:9: "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."
The Parable of the Talents in Matt 25: 14-30 tells us that the Master has entrusted talents to us according to our ability, and He expects us to invest what we have been given. We will be rewarded for being faithful to do this.
Ecclesiastes 3:13: "That each of them may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God."
From God's perspective, you are fearfully and wonderfully made, God's special possession chosen, called to Salvation through Jesus Christ, entrusted to manage your gifts and abilities to experience the joy and satisfaction God intends you to enjoy.
As we align our careers with our faith, we must recognize that God's plan for each of us is unique. While the path may be challenging, it is that challenge that often brings out our best and contributes to His greater purpose.
Steps For Pursuing Your True Career Calling
1. Seek God's Guidance: Approach your career decisions with prayer and seek God's wisdom. Ask for His guidance in aligning your talents and passions with His plan for your life.
2. Study Your Gifts: Study the gifts God has given you to manage. You can do this by reflecting on your life and categorizing your skills, interests, values, and personality traits. An even better approach is to complete career tests that identify the puzzle pieces of your God-given design. You can only use gifts you are unaware of. Elizabeth O'Connor says, "We ask to know the will of God without guessing that His will is written into our very beings. We perceive that will when we discern our gifts."
3. Seek Wise Counsel: Don't hesitate to seek advice from mentors, fellow believers, and career counselors who can provide valuable insights and guidance.
4. Orient Your Life Around the Biblical Principles of Stewardship: The biggest stewardship project of your life will be how you use your gifts to meet the needs of the world. You don't own your gifts. Instead, you get to manage your skills, values, and personality strengths in your life roles (such as being a son/daughter, spouse, parent, church member, and neighbor).
5. Become a Risk Taker: To use your gifts fully, you must become a risk taker who regularly chooses against the "path of least resistance." Only as you take risks to move out of your comfort zone will you be able to grow, develop, and use your gifts fully.
6. Embrace Challenges: Understand that challenges and difficulties are not obstacles but opportunities for growth and transformation. Trust that God is working in and through these challenges for your good.
7. Be Open to Change: God may lead you to unexpected career paths or opportunities that require stepping out of your comfort zone. Be open to change and willing to follow His lead.
8. Trust in God's Timing: Patience is a virtue, and God's timing is perfect. Your career journey may not unfold as quickly as you hope, but trust that He orchestrates events for your benefit.
Biblical Examples of People Who Have Answered God's Career Calling
In Scripture, we do not see God leading His people to the path of least resistance or to stay in their comfort zones. Instead, Jesus consistently led his disciples out of their comfort zones on a challenging pathway. The Bible reveals a consistent theme of individuals called to rewarding and meaningful work. However, this journey often included struggles, difficulties, fear, and sometimes "failures."
Why does God orchestrate our careers in this way? It is because the path of least resistance often leads to complacency and confinement within our comfort zones. In His infinite wisdom, God does not call His people to remain stagnant in their comfort zones. Instead, He beckons them to choose a path of action that will push them to their knees in prayer, recognizing that they cannot accomplish what He has ordained for them in their own strength while barricading themselves in their comfort zones.
As we remain faithful in choosing the path of intentional, prayerful action instead of the path of least resistance, we embark on a transformative journey. We discover new realms of knowledge, develop skills we never thought possible, and, most importantly, grow into the individuals God has uniquely created us to be.
Numerous individuals were called to significant roles and challenging careers throughout the Bible. They exemplify how God's plan often involves stepping out of the comfort zone and embracing the challenges of purposeful work.
Moses: When God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses initially resisted, citing his fear and inadequacy. However, he eventually obeyed, and through numerous trials and hardships, he fulfilled his divine calling.
David: David, chosen as king while still a shepherd boy, faced the daunting task of defeating Goliath. His path was far from easy, but his faith and determination led him to become one of Israel's greatest kings.
Joseph: Joseph's career path was marked by betrayal, false accusations, and imprisonment. Yet, God had a more excellent plan for him, and he eventually became a powerful leader in Egypt, saving countless lives during a famine.
Esther: Esther, a young Jewish girl, was called to be queen during a time of great danger for her people. She risked her life to save the Jewish community, demonstrating that God's purpose often leads us to confront daunting challenges. In describing her, Esther 4:14 says the well-known verse, "And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?"
These biblical figures exemplify that God's calling is never a journey of least resistance. Instead, it is a path that demands faith, perseverance, and reliance on God's strength.
Historical Examples of Christian Men and Women Who Choose to Answer God's Career Calling
Here are five more examples of Christian men and women who took significant risks to use their gifts in work aligned with their calling:
Mother Teresa - Humanitarian and Missionary: Mother Teresa, also known as Saint Teresa of Calcutta, dedicated her life to serving the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta, India. She founded the Missionaries of Charity, a religious congregation that cared for the sick and needy. Mother Teresa's calling to serve the marginalized and suffering required immense personal sacrifice and risk, including living in challenging conditions and tending to those with contagious diseases.
William Wilberforce - Abolitionist: William Wilberforce, a devout Christian and Member of Parliament in Britain, risked his political career to advocate for the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. His relentless efforts and speeches in the face of fierce opposition were instrumental in the passage of the Slave Trade Act of 1807 and, later, the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833.
Corrie ten Boom - Holocaust Rescuer: Corrie ten Boom and her family risked their lives to hide Jewish refugees during the Holocaust in the Netherlands. Despite the danger of discovery by the Nazis, they provided a safe haven in their home. Corrie's Christian faith and sense of duty drove her to take significant risks to protect and save countless lives.
Martin Luther King Jr. - Civil Rights Leader: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister, used his powerful oratory and nonviolent civil disobedience to fight for racial equality in the United States during the civil rights movement. His leadership in organizing protests and marches, often met with violence and opposition, exemplified the risks he took to fulfill his calling for justice and equality.
Amy Carmichael - Missionary in India: Amy Carmichael, a Christian missionary, left her home in Ireland to work in India. She founded the Dohnavur Fellowship, a mission dedicated to rescuing young girls from temple prostitution and providing them with education and spiritual guidance. Her mission work in India was marked by challenges, including opposition from religious authorities and health risks, but she remained steadfast in her calling.
These individuals demonstrated unwavering faith, commitment to their callings, and a willingness to face adversity and danger to make a positive difference in the world. Their stories serve as inspiring examples of risk-taking in the pursuit of a higher purpose grounded in their Christian faith.
In the quest to choose the right career path, the dichotomy between the path of least resistance and thoughtful action is a choice that shapes our lives in profound ways. While our brains may naturally gravitate toward the easy route, biblical wisdom teaches us that God's plan often leads us away from our comfort zones and into purposeful, challenging work.
Remember that God's call for you is unique and may not always align with the easiest or most conventional paths. Embrace the challenges, trust in His guidance, and remain steadfast in your faith. In doing so, you will discover a fulfilling career and a deeper understanding of who you are and who God has called you to be.
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