Carola is a Christian writer and author of several books. She writes about Christian living, relationships, and other related topics.
We have all heard the story of the salmon who struggles against the current to return its old spawning ground to give birth to a new generation. The salmon does achieve its goal - it reaches the spawning ground, but it is so battered and bruised that it dies after laying its eggs. Sometimes Christians feel life is like that. A surge of water tries to grab them and force them to swim the other way. They exhaust themselves jumping up the fish ladders of life.
Over my long life, I could relate to that battered salmon when I pursued goals that were not meant to be. I have also witnessed many people at work and in church who felt frustrated, unfulfilled and stuck in their career or church ministries
Are we struggling against the current of life with the wrong aspirations, dreams, or career or volunteer ministry choices? We ask this question because we do not want to live without experiencing that joy and fulfillment of using our talents as God intended. God wants us to use the gifts He has given us (Romans 12:4-8), but how do we know where our skills lay?
When Our Pursuits Do Not Match Our Talents
We sometimes take a path in life that causes pain because we want it very badly but do not have the skills and talents needed to succeed. Reality shows like American Idol or Americas Got Talent feature many people like this. Thousands audition - bragging on camera about being the next superstar only to bomb when they get in front of the judges.
Many of us do not see ourselves as singers and dancers, but in the same way, we may be striving to do things that do not fit our talents and skills. We end up experiencing extreme frustration, criticism from others, and a gnawing ache inside that tells us something is missing.
So how do we know where we fit in life, whether it be a career or volunteer work in a church ministry? One worship pastor tackled that thorny question during a worship arts conference several years ago. He told the story of a man named Raymond (not his real name) who approached him and asked if he could be part of the worship team. Raymond was sincere in wanting to serve God in this ministry. When Raymond auditioned, however, his voice was just not good enough. The pastor gently explained that he could not join the worship team and encouraged him to explore other ministries. Raymond ended up flourishing in another ministry.
If the pastor had allowed Raymond to be a part of the worship team instead of using his real talent, the poor man would have become frustrated. He would struggle and work hard, but still not achieve a high enough level of excellence. He would have quit eventually. Other worship team members would probably quit as well - unable to tolerate his flat, often off-key voice next to them.
Ensuring That We are Pursuing the Right Goals
So how do we know that we have the talents to do the things we want to do? There are steps we can take to ensure our skills match our goals.
Examine Our Motives for Chasing Certain Dreams
By the time we enter our early twenties, many of us have a sense of where our abilities lie. We develop passions for certain jobs and ministry positions, but we have to question our motives for pursuing certain paths.
Many people seek careers in the entertainment field because they long for fame and fortune. They want people to adore them and look up to them. Others are driven by a desperate need for approval. These pursuits are based on fleshly desires, not the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Our sincere enthusiasm and a willingness to work are not enough reasons to pursue a certain path. We need to have the talent and skill to back it up.
Identify What We Need for Success
Here are some of the characteristics that can lead us to success:
- Natural talents
- A passion to succeed
- A willingness to be trained
- Relevant past experiences in that area
- Accepting and learning from constructive criticism
- A willingness to sacrifice time and finances to improve our skills
- Positive feedback from experts who can confirm that we should pursue our goals
- Positive fruits from our efforts such as satisfaction, fulfillment, joy, positive feedback, and advancement
Analyzing Our Goals
Before we take the step toward a dream, we should analyze our goals. Do we have the necessary talents and skills needed to follow our passion? We need to be realistic if we are to succeed. Before Raymond auditioned for the worship team, he should have analyzed whether singing was a good fit for him in several ways:
Recording his voice and playing it back
Listening to music and analyzing how quickly he was able to pick up the music and sing it accurately
Seeking the opinions of several people in the field who were impartial and honest
Raymond's worship leader hated to say no to Raymond but knew that putting him on the worship team was not in Raymond's best interests. The worship leader pointed out that if he had accepted Raymond into his music ministry, Raymond would not have discovered where his true talents lay. All of the time he had wasted pursuing singing could have been spent more productively in a more satisfying and fulfilling role.
If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid
Attributed to Albert Einstein
When we are going down a path that does not match our natural talents and backgrounds, we often feel like we are a fish climbing a tree. We want to do well but do not have the ability, no matter how hard we try. Our psyches are beaten up by feelings of inadequacy and failure.
We stubbornly keep studying but are not improving enough to succeed. We work hard but do not seem to be able to achieve our goals. We will eventually become so discouraged that we end up quitting chasing our dreams instead of doing what we are good at – swimming with the current.
Get Input From Other People
When other people become involved in our pursuits, we need to weigh their input carefully. Sometimes, true friends will point out our abilities, cheer us on, and even provide opportunities for us to grow in our calling. Occasionally, people are misguided and try to oppose us going in the way God wants us to go. At other times, they may encourage us to go down the wrong path because it looks like a good thing to do to them. It is best to seek out the opinions of people who have expertise in the field we are pursuing and express an impartial opinion.
The Benefits of Pursuing A Good Fit
God equips us with talents, passions, and natural inclinations to pursue various careers and ministries (1 Corinthians 12). When we are following the right path, we feel fulfilled and will produce good fruit. People in the know will confirm that we are on the right path and encourage us.
We may face some adversity, such as physical limitations or some people opposing us for the wrong reasons, but have enough assurance and courage to press on. When we see others in the same field, we feel inspired to train and work harder at our craft.
We can stay positive and have a high sense of self-esteem. God wants us to live happy, fulfilled lives pursuing the dreams that match His vision for us (3 John 2).
Reference: The Holy Bible, New International Version