How Can You Find Purpose When You’re Not Working Your Dream Job?

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Life after college can be an awkward breeding ground for waiting. At least it was for me.

After college, I was working three part-time jobs: one as a children’s ministry assistant at my church, one as a cashier at a burrito joint and another as a freelance writer. Having studied journalism and knowing I wanted to write in a ministry context, it was often challenging for me to see the value of what I did. I had to fight to remember that God was not only preparing me for the next season of life; he was also refining my character to look more like that of Jesus.

It can be difficult to see the purpose in jobs that aren’t our “dream job,” whether that’s in a secular environment or in a ministry setting. If you’re not careful, you can miss the Lord’s purpose in your period of waiting.

So, how do you find purpose when you’re not working your dream job? Here are three areas that Lord began to teach me about during that season:

God was not only preparing me for the next season of life; he was also refining my character to look more like that of Jesus.

1. Waiting teaches us about security.

Periods of waiting teach us to lean into Jesus and remember we have all we need in him. Waiting reminds us we do not blaze our own path as followers of Jesus. We are surrendered to Jesus in all things, including our jobs and futures. Trust that the internal character he is building within you pays much larger dividends in the future than an immediate answer to your desires.

Your identity is not what you do, yet we live in a culture that often tells you it is. This was a truth that the Lord began teaching me in that season of waiting and is continually reminding me today.  

The insecurity I faced regarding my post-grad life surfaced when people would ask me about where I was working now I was out of college. The weight of self-condemnation loomed over me as a simple question pulled out the deepest insecurities of my heart.

What that revealed in my heart was an attitude of entitlement, as if God owed me a good job after college. I had difficulty understanding why God had allowed many people to get jobs so quickly while I felt vocationally stranded. I had a degree, but what did that really mean?

What I needed more than a dream job was to stop listening to the voice of condemnation in my head and start listening to the voice of love from my heavenly Father. This is the same voice that Paul speaks of in Romans 8:15-17:

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs – heirs of God and coheirs with Christ – if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

2. Waiting teaches us about humility.

I often have to remind myself that everything I have up to this point is from God. Whether in times of need when struggling with self-condemnation or in times of plenty when guarding myself against self-righteousness, all I have comes from my heavenly Father.

And the same is true for you. If you do find yourself in the job or ministry setting you hope to be in one day, remember that ultimately, it’s from God. We are severely lacking in our humility and awareness of God’s hand if we miss his faithfulness in that process.

I was recently reminded of this truth in my reading of Deuteronomy. The Lord speaks of this when talking to the Israelites as they are getting ready to cross the Jordan River and enter into the Promised Land. Knowing their tendency toward self-sufficiency, the Lord, speaking through Moses, says:

[The Lord] fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers had not known, in order to humble and test you, so that in the end he might cause you to prosper. You may say to yourself, ‘My power and my own ability have gained this wealth for me,’ but remember that the Lord your God gives you the power to gain wealth, in order to confirm his covenant he swore to your fathers, as it is today.

It’s not just Israelites that lean toward self-sufficiency and pride; we do, too. No one likes to feel weak, yet, that is the very crux of the gospel. We are weak, and that’s OK. So even in the daily labor of life, even in the jobs we wish we could change, our God absolutely knows what he’s doing. He is sovereign and loves his children deeply.

3. Waiting teaches us about contentment.

Our culture is constantly shaping us to do more, be more efficient and strive to be the best version of ourselves. Excellence is a wonderful thing, but when you feel like the entirety of your future is riding on you, it’s exhausting.

The reality is that for those of us who rest in the sufficiency of Christ, whether we are working a mundane job or one we love, we can find purpose and contentment because he is present and sustaining us.

Matt Chandler explains the kindness of God’s provision for his people in a sermon he preached on Exodus 13:17-22. He said, “If you feel like the Lord is taking his time leading you to where you know he’s taking you, I would never begrudge the long way. It is almost always God’s mercy on your life.”

How often do we think of waiting for what we desire as “God’s mercy”? God is not pointlessly making you wait on anything. He is not vindictive toward you. He loves you and sees what you do not.

So, trust him in the in-between. Leaning into what he is wanting to teach you in this process will make finding purpose in the in-between so much sweeter.

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Lauren Pratt

Lauren Pratt currently works for a Public Relations firm in Boston while finishing up her Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies at The College at Southeastern. She writing as a way to both encourage and equip followers of Christ.

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