Seeking Direction for the Future

(Aliya Crippen ) #1

Hello all,

My name is Aliya. I am a Christ follower and a young adult seeking His will for the next season of my life. I am interested in continuing my education and I am struggling with determining the best fit (college or otherwise). I am deeply passionate about numerous areas: art, history, literature, apologetics, horticulture, to name a few. I desire a rich and meaningful educational experience where I can develop more completely into the woman God has called me to be. However, like many, financial consideration and practicality are substantial factors that I find myself grappling with. My hope for higher education is to gain more complete wisdom and understanding, not necessarily to pursue a specific career. This, of course, is not conducive to the contemporary college model where it feels like student loan debt and negative influence can outweigh the life-enriching effects.

There are a few Christian universities I am looking at but I want to seek wise counsel before I commit to any one place. I have listened to Ask Away for years and I have so much respect for Vince and Jo! I would love to hear their thoughts and recommendations. I also welcome any additional insight on the subject from the RZIM connect community.
Thank you!

(SeanO) #2

@aliyasagebrushandcanvas It would be great if @Vince_Vitale or @Jo_Vitale can share some thoughts, I’m sure they have an abundance of wisdom.

I think that when thinking about college there are three separate concerns:

  1. Growth in Christlikeness / discipleship
  2. Vocation
  3. Staying out of debt

I agree with you that in an ideal world we could focus solely on growing in godly wisdom and understanding, but I think that we must be practical as well and consider a vocation that is suited to our talents and can meet our needs. I think it would be worth taking the time to think through what type of career / vocation you might enjoy doing, you are capable of doing and can provide financially.

So maybe consider a Christian college that has a degree program you are interested in and is affordable once you’ve thought more about vocation? Or a public college with a good degree program that is very affordable and has solid Christian ministries on campus? That way you could both pursue a good vocation and have a healthy environment for growing as a Christian.

I really think having practical skills when you finish your degree - being employable and being able to earn enough to support yourself - is a great benefit. I’ve known people who chose a major aimlessly and then when they graduated they not only struggled with what to do, but struggled to get a job. If you’re not sure what you want to do, I think it is wiser to choose a vocation that can earn you a steady income after graduating while you try to figure out what you really want to do.

After you get your Bachelors you can always shift directions, so having a Bachelors degree that can earn you an income does not lock you into anything, but it does keep you from being both unemployed and confused simultaneously.

On the other hand, if you start college and realize you want to become a literature professor or an art critic, then you can chase after that path. But I think it is definitely healthier to at least have a viable career goal when starting.

Christ grant you wisdom and Shepherd you through this decision.

(Melvin Greene) #3

Hi @aliyasagebrushandcanvas,

I think @SeanO has given some wise counsel. The only thing I would add is that God has given us certain gifts and talents and passions that He intends for us to use. It looks like you know what your interests and passions are. Think about what your talents are, or what you are naturally good at. What do you like to spend most of your time doing? What activities do you do that makes you lose track of time and you wish you could do the whole day? These are clues that God gives us that tells us what career to pursue. God has designed us for a specific purpose and he has given us the abilities to do it. Once you discover your God given purpose and you pursue it, you will be unstoppable! You will be a powerful force that God will use to bless others! I didn’t say it would be easy. In fact there will be times when you think it is impossible. But, hold on to and trust your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and you will do the impossible!

May God bless you, Aliya!


(Caleb Brown) #5

Hi, Aliya,

I’m only just about to graduate college myself, so I certainly don’t have a lot of life experience to address your question. But life direction is certainly something I’ve been working through a lot lately, so I can definitely relate to your struggle.

I have a couple of thoughts:

  1. You can pursue art, history, literature, apologetics, and horticulture, without going to college! Getting a degree is just a certification that you have studied these things, but if you aren’t moving towards a specific career field (which is where the certification would matter), the certification may not be worth the expense.

  2. There are many trade school programs that are much cheaper than a liberal arts college. Some programs will even pay you while you go to trade school, and the jobs after trade school often pay as well as jobs you can get after a bachelor’s degree. If you’re not sure what you want to do, this route might be safer and preserve more options for your future because it would avoid debt. It would probably be easier to go to a 4-year college after trade school than go to trade school after a 4-year college.

  3. If you do want to move towards a traditional bachelor’s degree, in my experience community college can be a really good way to go about this. So long as your credits transfer, you can often complete a large portion of your degree at a fraction of the cost. Community college can also be a good place to explore interests without incurring a lot of debt.

Hope this is helpful!


(Olivia Davis) #6

Oh, Aliya, can I ever relate to your question! I want you to know that you’re added to my prayer list — I will be praying for God to direct your path and to give you confidence about your future in Him.

Every situation is different, but your question has resonated deeply with me because I have struggled with understanding what God wants me to do with my life. In the past, it often seemed like everyone else — including people who weren’t trying to seek God’s will! — had things figured out, while I felt gridlocked in indecision as I waited on the Lord.

Just to illustrate: I graduated college with credentials in four subjects. Each of these represented a career path that I thought God was leading me to. I didn’t figure out that they weren’t the way until I’d collected enough credits for them to appear on my diploma! It felt like wasted time…but, 1.5 years out of college, I can see how God has already used every single one in my life. What felt schizophrenic at the time was actually God leading me. @SeanO, @Melvin_Greene, and @chabguy have given you some great advice. I’m thinking about what I’d like to say to my former self, and I hope that some of the things I’ve learned might also be of benefit to you, Aliya.

Try to keep the right focus.
It’s really easy to see your career/future as the most important thing in your life. I saw trying to have things planned out as being a good steward of what God had given me. And absolutely, seeking God’s wisdom about the future is right, but ultimately, we have to look at God himself. This quote by Oswald Chambers sums it up well: “God does not tell you what He is going to do; He reveals to you Who He is.” Your primary spiritual concern should always be getting to know God. Everything else — including future direction — is a far second. God is so much more interesting and important than our future plans. Focus on him, and he will give you direction, even if it doesn’t feel like direction at first.

God is going to use you through your gifts and talents.
To be honest, I used to hear this and my heart would be so hard. I would ask God, “Why did you give me this ability and then not use it?” It would make me angry to hear that God had a plan to use my gifts because I felt unused and unwanted by God without any direction. These were feelings, not truths. Eventually, God did put the pieces together…but, oh, it was tough in the midst. Don’t surrender to thinking that because you don’t have direction now, it means you never will. If you continue to seek God, he will direct your path. It took way longer than I wished it did at the time, but it was worth it in the end. Hold fast, stay in the Word, and know that God will not turn you down as a vessel. He has a future for you.

God has told you everything you need to know now.
I often felt like I simply was doing something wrong spiritually, and that’s why God wasn’t illuminating my path for me more than, like, an inch down the road. That wasn’t true. God gave me exactly what I needed to do at the time. If I had planned to be where I am now, I wouldn’t have plotted my future in the way it eventually played out. God orchestrated things better than I knew how to. He’s not cruel; he’s not holding back information — he lets you know exactly what you need to know today (for example, he let you find out about RZIM Connect, where you could get some advice, haha).

If you go in the wrong direction, God will let you know!
This is why it’s so important that we be close to him in everything. If you’re doing the wrong thing, he loves you and he will steer you in the right direction. He loves you too much not to. Thus, feel free to try out different things — for now, your goal is to investigate different possible futures (whatever that looks like — taking classes, starting a website, anything). God will let you know if something isn’t right. He isn’t going to confuse you, and if he wants to communicate something directly to you, he will make it plain as day.

I don’t really believe that God has called us to a single, one, perfect thing.
We might be equally gifted in singing and painting; unless you’ve received a specific word from God to choose one over the other, do both, or pick your favorite. God sometimes lets us make our own choices by giving us many options. That’s ok too, and it doesn’t mean that he’s not going to anoint our work for the kingdom because we didn’t pick “the right one.”

On Education…
I really admire that you’re thinking about the full picture of college, taking into consideration debt and how it will help your future. My advice would be to separate the ideas of a rich and meaningful educational experience and formal higher education. Sometimes they’re intertwined, sometimes (mostly?) not. There are plenty of books and resources for independent study, and there are also lots of interesting courses you can take for online without prohibitive tuition fees (RZIM academy also comes to mind). The practical advice of @SeanO and @ChabGuy summed up all I have to offer there! College is a great option to get a credential in a practical field while also getting to dabble in other subjects, too.

The Call by Os Guinness was transformational in helping me think about the idea of calling.

I think the underlying theme in everything I want to say, and everything I’d say to my frustrated college self, is that God loves you and that if you focus on him before anything else, your future will become something that you’re excitedly anticipating, as a promise of his faithfulness in a shape and form you don’t know yet! That is the best thing — better than any direction. If you walk with him and seek to know him more, he will guide you by his spirit. That’s enough.

I’m praying for you, Aliya :slight_smile:

(Aliya Crippen ) #7

Hello @SeanO
Thank you for the thoughts and practical advice. The reality of needing to be able to support myself out of college is certainly a necessity. The priority level of that end is one that has fluctuated as I explore my options. On the one hand: I don’t want to spend four years of my life earning a degree whose sole purpose is to launch me into a passionless though lucrative career. On the other hand: I don’t want to rack up a mountain of debt for a liberal arts degree just because I care about the subject matter. It is definitely something I need to continue to ponder.

I appreciate that you said: “in an ideal world.” I am certainly learning the merits of having to take the world as it is and not how I wish it to be.

Thank you so much for your encouragement!

(Aliya Crippen ) #8

Hello @Melvin_Greene
Thank you for reminding me of the importance of calling and of the particular skill set the Lord has given me. It is so true that the plan God has for each of us is not the easiest but always the fullest. His will for us supersedes our wildest hopes for ourselves. I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’s quote in “The Weight of Glory”:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

I greatly appreciate your strong encouragement!

(Aliya Crippen ) #9

Hi @chabguy,
I actually believe it is valuable that you are so close to this experience… I feel that the recent exposure to it can give a unique perspective and ability to relate.
Thank you for your thoughts. Those are certainly some options worth revisiting. I have considered them each in their turn in the past however, I am certainly open to God changing my plans. I actually already have an AA degree from a local community college, I have been working and studying independently this past year awaiting direction. Near the end of last year, I started to feel the nudge to begin looking into four-year colleges again hence this initial question.

I am sincerely grateful for your encouragement!

(SeanO) #10

@aliyasagebrushandcanvas I definitely understand not wanting to end up in a passionless career. I think that something Jesus said regarding following Him is very applicable - we need to count the cost. To follow Jesus means to give our whole lives to Him and obey in all things - to die to ourselves and live to God. We should recognize that fact going in.

Similarly, when you consider a profession it is important to count the cost. Being an artist may be your heart’s passion, but is it worth possibly facing financial struggles your entire life if you are not one of the top artist in the country?

Or maybe it is being an English professor - that’s great, are you willing to spend lots of time writing academic papers and working hard to make tenure? Are you willing / able to attend a school with good enough credentials so that you can be successful in this career?

So I think one great thing to as you start this process is identify a few possible careers you are interested in and then go interview people who are doing what you would like to do in the future at the level you would want to do it.

What sacrifices did they have to make? What sacrifices do they still have to make regularly?

What are the benefits? What do they love about their work that they would not trade for anything?

What skills are required to succeed in this profession? Do they think you would be a good fit?

Is there some way to get scholarships? Could they connect you with anyone?

Having that kind of info on a few potential careers may help you weigh the cost / benefits of each option as you pray for God to open / close doors throughout the process.

Christ bless you on the journey :slight_smile:

(Aliya Crippen ) #11

Hi @Olivia_Davis,
I cannot even begin to say how much your response means to me. I am so very thankful for your prayers and also for the fruit the platform of RZIM Connect has already shown. I should have been active on this site years ago… but no, I trust God’s timing :slight_smile: I am sure He meant for me to connect with @SeanO, @Melvin_Greene, @chabguy and yourself at precisely the time I did.

I was so encouraged and–I confess–challenged by your points. Especially regarding keeping the right focus. Setting my eyes on the Lord and trusting Him to reveal Himself is something that can easily be forgotten in the light of practical worries. I am running into that with the mounting consideration of potentially very big life decisions that distract and overwhelm. You have certainly given me some valuable insight and resources that I will be referring back to as I continue to press in and move forward.

Thank you so much!

(Olivia Davis) #12

I’m so encouraged that you found it beneficial! Can’t wait to see how God is going to move in your life! :slight_smile:

(Brittany Bowman) #13

Aliya, you ask great questions, and it is neat to see someone reflecting so deeply on their career. I just wanted to share two resources helpful in my own life. Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung and this resource list are quite challenging.

We’re called to love the Lord with all of our heart and love our neighbor as ourselves. We can do this in all careers, and you may find some of your most effective and fulfilling ministry work is not in the work you do, but in the relationships you build with your coworkers outside of work hours. Putting too much pressure on yourself to find the “right path” for your career may result in you missing the small opportunities to serve in the everyday moments, no matter where you are. The world can do any type of job, whether it is engineering or social work or literary criticism. What makes our testimony unique as Christians is that being a Christ-follower means we do those jobs differently. This will stand out much more in the workplace than getting the “right” career.

(Caleb Brown) #14

Sounds like you’re way past where I’m qualified to give advice! In my experience, it took a while to get clarity on direction/ next steps, but God was certainly faithful to give it!

(Carolyn Matyjanka) #15

YES!!! This!!! In my ‘profession’ as an employment facilitator I repeat and repeat that jobseekers/students go talk to folk doing the job already!! It’s truly the beat source of information!!! Also ask the employers/hiring personnel what they look for!

(John Van der Werff) #16

From someone who is at the end of my career I see a lot of great advice. The only other things I would like to humbly put for you to consider is that no matter what you do, God will be with you and God’s will in your life is simple to understand… Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and spirit and love your neighbor as yourself. God has given us a mind, gifts or talents, and we have freedom to use those to glorify and serve God. Finally, if we ask, God will give us wisdom. Blessings to you! John

(Billie Corbett) #17

Hello Aliya,

You have received some great advice and feed back. All of it is excellent. Amen to all that collective wisdom! What a blessing to have that available to you!

Aliya, you are in Christ…seek Him…he has promised…
2 Peter 1: 3
By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for life and godliness. We have received all of this by coming to know Him, the one who called us to Himself by means of His marvelous glory and excellence.”

Matt 6:33

“Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteous and all these things will be give to you as well.”

So, you can be secure in Him.

Nothing is wasted in God’s economy. Even what may seem like a waste, will come to bear fruit in it’s time, because God’s loving, Sovereign hand is upon you, and His Spirit is in you.

I am an older person, and I can assure you that these things true. God has never failed me. This is the witness of my experience with the Lord.

I will say…God will often surprise us.
While you may have many natural gifts and talents, He may direct you in a way where those gifts and talents are not primary. He may want all that comes about for you to be … only about His Grace, and for His Glory.

God is mysterious and wonderful! If you know your Bible and the history of His dealings with His people…you will know…God never did the same thing twice. His ways are always fresh and new.

This is held in tension with the fact that He never changes. His character is trustworthy and Holy. He doesn’t alter who He is.

But, how He works in us and in the world, is always unique. It is distinctive, so humankind cannot rob Him of His glory for what He has done.

Pay attention to observe how He works in others…and see where He has been, but, He will lead you in a way you have not known. This is because He is a personal and intimate Heavenly Father.

As a young person, I didn’t have the opportunities many people have. I was born into chaos. My young life was sent on a trajectory I wouldn’t have gone on if all things had of been equal. So, when I came to Christ, it was pretty hard to get any sense of calling or purpose, other than God’s grace in saving a sinner like me.

I had many innate natural talents … and if I had had the opportunity, anyone of these would have taken me far, because I was also given the strength and determination of being a hard worker…(Whatever I did, I did with all my heart!)

But, God’s kingdom purpose for me was not in the talents. These were gifts for me. They were gifts God bestowed for me to grow in, to be comforted through, to enjoy, to master…and ultimately to glorify Him…for who He has made me to be. I believe He wants that for all of us. But, the purpose for usefulness in His Kingdom was hidden from me. I think of the verse, “He that is faithful in little, will be given more.” It wasn’t until I was I was close to 40 that I began to see His hand through everything else leading me to a particular vineyard to labour in for Him.

For employment purposes, follow what interests you most and what will support you economically. “Put your hand to the plow and hold on” as the old black spiritual says it. Don’t look back or second guess it. God will bless it.

Enjoy your many talents…develop them, like others have said, outside formal means. You likely will find more benefit in this anyway, because then, the Holy Spirit can be your teacher and guide. In the back of you mind, trust God will reveal, when it pleases Him, your distinct calling.

Os Guinness’s book “The Call” is wonderful. I read it at 60 and was inspired that God still had more in store…I trust God and continue to pray for Him to reveal His calling and purpose…even though, I have know it in a specific manner for 25 years. Like I said, He is a God of surprises…and I know everything in life is cultivating me to live…for His glory.

You have communicated your hearts desire is to be led by the Lord…

Psalm 37: 4
“Take delight in the LORD, ans He will give you the desires of your heart.”