We all feel small. We fail at things. We sense our inadequacy long before anyone else ever notices it. When wondering what to do with our lives, insecurity often drowns possibility. The truth is, life isn’t about us, but we don’t find that out by taking an emotional inventory.
If you run in Presbyterian circles, like I do, you’ll hear the answer to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism (What is the chief end of man?) rattled off ad nauseum as the complete solution to every practical question about work and life.
You ask, “What should I do with my life?” and the Presbyterian responds triumphantly on-script, “Glorify God and enjoy Him forever!” and pats you on the back. Um, thanks, but what you meant was, should I go to college or trade school or start my own business? Should we have kids now or after that promotion comes through? Should I settle safely in my hometown or go to the foreign mission field?
Our pressing questions are about how to spend our time and what kind of life goals to pursue, but the advice we get when we ask these questions doesn’t really scratch the itch. It is the well-intended, “Do all things as unto the Lord” answer, which doesn’t help us make decisions, at least not without some precise application.
We should do all things as to the Lord, but this command leads us into asking generally, “What kinds of things can be done unto the Lord?,” and specifically, “What should I individually be doing for His honor?”
What kinds of things can be done unto the Lord?
The command to do all things as to the Lord comes with preset dimensions. When He says “all things” He doesn’t mean ALL things that could possibly be done. Gossip and theft, for instance, are not included. You cannot do in His honor what He has forbidden.
We live in a time when Christians are very confused about who God is. We treat Him like a fairy godmother come to fulfill our fantasies instead of the King of Glory making His name known in all the earth. Biblical phrases like “do all things as to the Lord” are carelessly tossed around to Jesus-ify a lot of things that Jesus wants nothing to do with. We carelessly slap His name on whatever we decide to do like a Salt Life sticker on the back of a Smart car. Seriously people, how are you going to haul your surf gear in that thing?
This kind of disconnect happens all the time. I have, on more than one occasion, seen Christian women publicly thanking the Lord for blessing them with their live-in boyfriends. The audacity of making public declarations of gratitude to the Lord for the enjoyment of something which is in direct contradiction to His commands is really quite astonishing. His call to “Be ye holy, for I am holy” is trampled under wanton thanksgiving for the opportunity to practice sexual sin and the defilement of the marriage bed with such a nice guy. Pride is our downfall for He will not share His glory with another. Take care, daughters of the King, that you don’t go whoring after idolatrous desires and profane the name of your Lord in the process.
When God’s Word tells us to do all things as to the Lord, this is a God-centered command. There is a difference between doing whatever we desire to do for Him and doing what He commands us to do for Him. One is self-worship, the other is God-honor.
What should I be doing for His honor?
The second question gets at what we really want to know. How should we individually honor God? Is it a one-size-fits-all prescription or do our unique personalities, talents, and opportunities, fit in somehow? I wish we had a ten step program or a complete dummy’s guide to finding our specific individual calling and purpose under God, something that gave us a neat little checklist to follow so we would instantly know when we’re off track. We don’t have that.
I’m thirty-eight years old and still trying to figure out what to do with my life. I was never a hope chest kind of girl, but I recently found a box of dolls I stowed away for safekeeping. They were supposed to be for my own little girls one day. Stumbling on a box of dusty daydreams can be unsettling. I must have been seven or eight years old when I dog-eared the pages of mail order catalogs like every other 1980s American Girl. I knew which doll was mine, admired her petite accessories, and knew her story. I saved and saved, and when I had half my parents made up the gap. I’d never spent so much money on anything in my life. Then, when I outgrew tea sets and make-believe, I tucked away my treasures for my daughters. The plans I had for my life as a child, I am discovering, were not the plans the Lord had for me. That can be a little hard to process.
I firmly believe that the plans the Lord has for me are to prosper and not to harm me. Even so, it is worth acknowledging the intensely personal nature of the dreams and desires that we all confront when we ask what we as unique human beings should be doing to glorify God. It is easy for us to think that the things we most desire to do are the things which are most glorifying to Him. This is only true if our deepest desire is for His glory alone.
Our matrix of desires is confounding, even to ourselves. It is tricky work to mine the depths of our motivations and be assured that all is well and true. We can give thanks that God knows us better than we know ourselves. His thumbprint is on every atom of our being. We do not glorify Him by our own strength; we don’t wrestle our deeds and desires into submission by our own power. God’s glory is brought about by His strength working in us:
Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen (Hebrews 13:20–21).
So, if, by God’s grace, our desire is for His glory, then what? What do we do? One thing we don’t have to do is bump around in the dark hoping to stumble onto glory. God’s Word is a lamp which highlights the perimeter of the answer to this question. I have been noticing some of these outlines recently as I’ve meditated on these things:
- God is glorified when we accomplish the specific work He gives us to do (John 17:4, Ephesians 2:10).
- God is glorified when we obey His commandments (John 14:31, Matthew 5:16).
- God is glorified when we bear much fruit (John 15:7–8).
Knowing this much gives me a place to start. I may not have the next ten years planned out, but if I know that God has ordained specific work for me to do, that He has given the commands necessary to govern my work in righteousness, and that He desires me to be fruitful, well now, that is pretty promising. I can ask my Father in heaven, “What should I do with my life?” and expect an actual answer. I can labor at mastering the unique talents the Lord has given me and expect Him to make them fruitful for His kingdom. I can apply myself to studying His commandments and know that He will teach me wisdom to apply those commands to my work. This is indeed a hopeful prospect for any who are discouraged by a nagging history of false starts or limping expectations.
In life we must carry our ambitions in an open hand, knowing that “Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the Lord will stand” (Proverbs 19:21). Whatever frustrations we meet along the way, His plans are steadily being carried out, and He involves us in His victory. He has, incredibly, prepared good work for us to do toward the spreading of His glory throughout the world until “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).
Other articles in the Girl’s Guide series:
Don’t Be Too Nice
Know Who Your Boss Is
Don’t Be Stupid
Use Your Talents
Be a DOer
It’s Not About YourSelfie
Beware of Bitterness
Be the Right Kind of Busy
Growing Up Single
Know Who Your Friends & Your Enemies Are
Don’t Be a Narcissist