In the modern world, we are constantly looking towards our next step. What will my next promotion be? Will I be able to advance in this career in this company, or will I need to jump ship to be able to move forward in my career?
The answers to these questions guide us in our career development, but sometimes discerning what is right can be a real challenge. This is where Christian counseling can serve as a major help in creating your career development plan.
First of all, I truly believe that 1) we were made to work; and 2) we as Christians are called to use our talents and money with responsibility.
Let’s look at that first supposition. You may have heard of the Protestant work ethic, but where exactly did this idea take root? Ecclesiastes 9:10 states, “Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom.”
The emphasis here is that whatever you do — do it well. This may be a job or volunteer position or raising your family. The implication, then, is that we have something to do in the first place.
Looking at the creation of humankind, God put us here then immediately put us to work. Genesis 2:15 states “The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.” This was the first interaction God ever had with a human (after creating us), putting us to work!
Note that He put Adam there to “tend and watch” over the garden, implying that the work was for Adam to do, but it was God’s realm that he was in charge of. Because God trusts us and wants good things for us, He gives us work to do. If we are created to work, then work we shall! But how then will we know what to do? We can’t all be gardeners after all!
Let’s look at this passage from Matthew 25:14-26, often known as the Parable of the Talents:
“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.
The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.
After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’ The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’
The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’ The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’
Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’
But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’”
More than just an evaluation of how to (or not to) save our money, this parable looks at what we are to do with the gifts and resources God has put in our lives. Note there is a call to responsibility here; while the final servant did not lose anything, he did not grow what the master had given him.
In the same way, we are called to take the gifts we are given and foster them. Maybe this is a knack for working the stock market, maybe it is the skilled hands of a surgeon, or maybe you create art. In any way, we are responsible to grow and make more with the natural gifts and abilities God has given us.
If you have the master hands of a potter, it is not good enough to preserve your hands from danger and avoid doing anything that can damage them. Rather, you are called to create and make pottery!
Once we do work, then, we must do it well and in a way that glorifies God. Romans 12:1 states, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”
A living sacrifice means we give up our lives and devote them to God. Our work should pour out as a reflection of this sacrifice. Further, this implies that we may have to give some potential up in our devotion to God.
Your Career Development Plan: How a Christian Counselor Can Help
So how, then, can a Christian counselor help you in your career development plan? Well if I were your counselor, I would take the above concepts and help you to apply them to your life.
So to review, I would start with the suppositions that 1) we are made to work; and 2) we are called to a responsibility. However, we must take these concepts further and apply them directly to your life.
So starting with the first concept, are you working now? Taking this a step further — are you working well now? This might mean more or less work, depending on your situation. How is work in your life currently lifting you up and providing for yourself and your family while glorifying God at the same time?
Often, we find ourselves in jobs that do not lift us up. I would challenge most anyone who “lives for the weekend.” If 5/7 of your life is spent in misery just so that you can make it to the weekend, I doubt that is putting you in the headspace that lifts you up and helps you to grow closer to God.
However, if you do not feel challenged you may not be using your gifts and talents in the most responsible manner. As a counselor, it would be my goal to help you find a job that gets your career headed to a sustainable place.
You should be challenged, but not too overburdened. There will be times of higher stress — maybe for a period most work days will be bad, but if this is to get you to a better place in your career, this may be okay.
However, we would talk about what this means for you and your loved ones. I have seen so many individuals who in the pursuit of a better life for themselves and family ended up neglecting themselves and family, ultimately causing more problems than comfort provided.
If I were to ask you a line of questions that was essentially me repeating, “And why do you do that?” almost always we will end up with you stating, “Because it makes me happy.” So perhaps we need to start there instead!
Finding something where your passion and God’s will for you intersect will be the most fulfilling in the long run. God built you a certain way so that some things will make you happy and fulfilled, so let us work on finding out what those are.
Generally, I would assume this is going to be the place where your God-given talents are being utilized and strengthened. If you feel fully unfulfilled but the paycheck is great, I would wonder if that is really worth it. We all know money doesn’t provide happiness (although it solves a lot of problems that can lead to suffering), so why do we so often get hung up on taking the “best” job — basing that largely on pay?
I would argue that the best job is the job that fulfills you and allows you to make ends meet — even if that means stretching a budget or making sacrifices in some places. Again, we are called to be “living sacrifices.” While this sounds like misery, I would argue God knows what He’s asking of us and this would lead to more fulfillment.
Now you may be coming at this from the complete opposite end of the spectrum — perhaps you can barely make ends meet and you feel like you should be doing more. Money is tight and you don’t feel like you have direction in your life.
You might need help just understanding in what direction your career development needs to begin, and that is okay! For many, there have been setbacks in life that prevented them from setting out on a career. This could be chronic illness, addiction, taking care of family, or anything else that has the potential to pull you from where you want to go. I believe that while the destination might feel far away, you can begin finding fulfillment in the journey right away.
Through counseling, I would like to work with you to map out what you want to be doing, then break it down step by step. Do you need to start schooling first? Do you need to save money first? Do you need to take some self-inventory to even begin to understand what you might enjoy doing?
These are all good and beneficial starting points that you can work out with the help of a counselor. Often the destination feels overwhelming, but the steps you can do starting today are quite manageable. Running a marathon is daunting, but those first few steps are easy.
From a mental health perspective, we get reward and reinforcement by making little successes. Doing one positive thing in your life will help you to feel more capable of doing the next. All those little steps will add up to some major changes and growth, but ultimately it starts out small.
That large change feels daunting, but we can get through it when we break it down. You might not have the motivation to make that big leap, but if you take it step-by-step, that motivation will be there when the time is right. Further, if you are pursing what you believe God is calling you to do, I truly believe He will provide the motivation and open the doors to get you to where you need to go.
Finally, I want to address the possibility of failure. Failure feels permanent, but so often it is a bump on the road to your personal career development. You will learn from failure, and what you learn from failure will be crucial for you finding success.
However, that failure can feel so overwhelming and disheartening. This is where counseling can really help. I pride myself in being able to hold hope and motivation for my clients when they feel like they can’t. Let me be your cheerleader and encourager. We can get through the bumps and hurdles together.
Maybe there will be a time to simply drop it all and go a new route — and this will take tremendous courage. Together we will be able to get through it and help you on your career development. Don’t hesitate and reach out today if you feel like you need the help and the push to move forward to fulfill God’s calling for your life.
“Achieve,” courtesy of Lukas, pexels.com, CC0 License; “Boss,” courtesy of energepic.com, CC0 License; “Plan,” courtesy of pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Ideas,” courtesy of pixabay.com, pexels.com, CC0 License
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