A Calling--or Frustration?

As a follower of Christ, we often talk about our "calling" from God. But what does that mean? And what do we conclude when we aren't able to fulfill the "calling" that we believe God has given us? I frequently think about this. As we've worked in cross-cultural ministry for thirty years and I've trained hundreds of missionaries to go the field, the concept of "calling" is a common theme. But are we guaranteed to accomplish the "call" on our lives?

Frederick Buechner writes, "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." This profound statement indicates that such a "calling" won't be onerous or debilitating. In fact, it will be characterized by our "deep gladness". But, what if the fulfillment of this calling isn't realized? What happens to the "gladness" then?

I've often quoted my husband's insight on the concept of a "call". "It isn't a question of whether or not you've been called if you are a child of God. You received the "call" with salvation. The question is 1) what am I to do; and 2) where am I to do it?"

This past weekend at the inaugural event for ArtsCharlotte, the theme was the "Call and Vocation of a Life in the Arts". There was much discussion about how or if being an artist required a "call" or not. At the end of the Symposium, I shared this quote from Michael Card, "The call to servanthood causes the creative gift to come alive. It gives it color and tone and direction and purpose. The art that naturally flows out of our obedient response to the call of God on our lives, as a result of the imprint of the creative mandate, can, by grace, become water to wash the feet of sisters and brothers, cold water to quench the thirst of an unbelieving world. To become servants of Christ is the highest goal we can aspire to in our creative work."

But, the purpose in writing this blog is the question, "What if you are blocked from fulfilling the "call"?" By way of example, I'll share a personal, very real situation that my husband finds himself in right now. After much prayer and seeking counsel, he has felt strongly that he had received from God a "call" to start a new ministry. His entire life has been one of vocational Christian ministry and he has been faithful. The "call" on his life has been clear for over fifty years. But, now, due to a lack of income and support partners, he is thwarted from fulfilling the "call". What should be our response? Do we assume that if God hasn't provided, it really wasn't a "call" from him? Should we continue to struggle and wait for God's provision? Are we being presumptuous to assume God must provide the means to fulfill this call? We're praying for answers to these pertinent questions. To be honest, right now, we don't know where to turn or what to conclude.

How do you handle a "thwarted fulfillment" of a "call"? What would you advise us to do?