Is God in Control of My Career?
Have you ever wondered, “Is God in control of my career?” You’ve worked hard, you’ve put in the 10,000 hours to develop your talent, and been shrewd about pursuing meaningful opportunities. And yet, you haven’t gotten the ‘break’ you hoped for or risen to a level of success you expected.
At times like this, it is easy to get discouraged. It is easy to start to wonder if God is really in control. And yet, if we drill down deeper, the real question isn’t so much about whether God is sovereign over everything. No. The real question is about what we think God’s sovereignty should mean to our career. Our natural response is…
“If God is in control, why…”
…Why am I not more successful? Why am I not making enough money? Why am I not more known? Why can’t I find an agent?…
For artists and creatives this also bubbles up from the heart in the form of, “Why do I have to keep struggling with a culture that doesn’t get my faith and a faith community that doesn’t understand my drive to create?” If we are going to grow closer to God throughout our careers and our life, we need to understand the true nature of God’s sovereignty and how his sovereignty plays out in our lives and careers.
Whose Career Is It?
We live in a era that is obsessed with our own identity, our own desires, our ability to help ourselves. We are obsessed with ‘finding’ ourselves, ‘discovering’ ourselves, and improving our own life through new habits, mindsets, coaching and affirmation. This is especially true in developed countries. It is the water we swim in.
This is why it is so easy to start thinking that God is here to help us in our own self-help journey. We think we are the captains of our own ship, we know what must be addressed and fixed, and then we treat God like a genie in a bottle we conjure up when we can’t fix and figure things out on our own.
But this is not the God of the Bible. A better picture of the God of the Bible is like what we find in the book of Jonah. In Jonah’s life, it became clear that God is in charge of the boat, the storm, the fish in the water, and even the non-Christians who threw him overboard. (Jonah 1:7) God had a plan for Jonah. Jonah had the freedom to obey or disobey.
Likewise, God has a plan and purpose for you, your life and career. He has a path for us to walk on, to follow him and obey him. Jonah chose to disobey God and refused to go witness to Nineveh until he was swallowed by a whale. Then he reluctantly obeyed God. It is clear God’s plans won’t be thwarted by Jonah’s disobedience. God was in control the whole time while allowing Jonah’s free will.
There is a false notion in some circles that if God is in control, then I have no ability to influence anything. This idea assumes that God is micromanaging everything to the smallest detail and we have no free will or agency. It is based on a hyper-Calvinist view of God’s sovereignty that is absurd and heretical. This is not Biblical at all.
Why would God give us commandments if we had no ability to obey them or break them? Why are we told to evangelize if God doesn’t use us in the process? Why did God tell Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree in the Garden of Eden, and why didn’t He stop them?
Clearly, He does not micromanage our lives. He has given us a free will, intelligent minds, and capable bodies which he expects us to utilize. We are not robots, but sentient beings made in the image of God. As Paul reminds us, “Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being, for the Lord and not for men,” (Colossians 3:23-24) We have a choice to work hard and develop our creativity.
Agency and Dependency
God expects you and I to use every resource we have to develop the gifts He has given us. He also expects us to use our minds to figure out how to solve problems, and to negotiate the changes in the art world or entertainment industry. His sovereignty does not eliminate our agency. Like the adage, “you can’t steer a parked car,” you and I need to use our gifts to work hard and to make a difference. As we begin to make progress God will open some doors and shut others, and our choices are meaningful. He wants our obedience and participation, and they are part of the sanctification process. And the reality is, God is ultimately in charge of where things end up. This is where the tension lies. We have agency, while we are also dependent upon God.
Solomon tells us, “I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong … but time and chance happen to them all.” (Eccl. 9:11) If Solomon wrote this to creatives he might have said, “The award does not always go to the best actor or director, and financial stability does not always go to the best and most faithful artist.”
We live in a fallen world. While we work hard to be ready for all opportunities that come our way, we must also remember that our future is in God’s hands. It is not dependent completely upon our effort, talent or availability. We must always come back to trusting in God and His timing.
And I don’t say that lightly, being in God’s waiting room for your career is one of the hardest places to be -it is where you are tested to see if success in your career is more important to you than God is. It is where your trust of God and his goodness for you is also tested. It’s where you ask questions like “Is His timing actually perfect or not?” God’s waiting room is that place your real-life-relationship with God is exposed – do you love Him because he is like a genie for you that delivers your wishes or do you love being with him and being loved by him? These are hard, tough, revealing moments. And when you go there and meet God in those hard places, he always shows up, loving, gentle and ready to heal your heart and ready to dethrone the idols you have replaced him with. It’s in those times deep intimacy can be built with God and deep reliance on Him can be built because you see your sin and run to him for saving.
Responsibility in the Struggle
Let’s be real now, most people do not rise to the top immediately. While we would love to have that experience, we may find that our own story mirrors the life of Joseph (Genesis 40). Not that we need to go to prison, but that God doesn’t show us the whole plan, and part of that plan is God working upon our hearts so that we depend upon Him.
You will face setbacks, failures, and end up taking side roads you didn’t know were possible. Yet, if we hold onto the truths of Scripture, we know that God is good, and He has a plan. The challenge in the middle of this struggle is to maintain your hope and trust in God, and to submit your life, vocation, and relationships to Him. His plan is always different than our original vision for our life, but His plan is Good. Never forget, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21)
Responsibility in Success
Success brings its own challenges as new doors open, and new opportunities become available. Some of these opportunities may be exactly what you were hoping for, but they often require compromises. Many will tell you to “strike while the iron is hot,” and to make the most of your success. Those are wise principles, but you must also consider carefully the partners you collaborate with and the obligations that come along with the new contracts and negotiations. The greater your influence, the more you need to consider how your gifts are pointing people to a view of life that mirrors God’s word. In the film industry this relates to the level of creative input you have in a production. The more input you have the more you are accountable to God to use that gift to push productions to honor God and His view of humanity, religion, relationships, sexuality and the truth of God’s word.
A Faithful Focus
In many ways, your life is like a garden. When you start out, you take time to choose the best seeds, till the soil, and prepare the ground with fertilizer and plant food. You also take time to pull the weeds. But you cannot control the sun, the rain, or whether there will be a heat wave or an overnight frost. Your career is the same. You know God is good and that He loves you. He desires for you to use all your gifts to work hard and develop your creative skills. He promises to bless you.
And yet, He is more interested in your personal transformation along the way, than He is interested in your immediate success. What He desires from us is faithfulness. Spiritual maturity comes when we recognize how truly dependent, we are upon God for all that we need. He has given us agency, but he also has given us a desire to be in community with our God.
Success without God is vacuous. Communion with God is the place where we find joy, hope and peace – regardless of our level of success. The more this becomes our passion, the more His sovereignty becomes a source of comfort. In the good times and the bad, because God is with you!
Share Your Journey
How has your career as a creative taught you to trust in Jesus instead of your talents, or the applause of others?
What lessons have you learned though the disappointments and setbacks of your creative endeavors?
Have you experienced the truth that we often grow spiritually in the midst of life’s setbacks?
What Scripture passages or books have been an encouragement to you in those seasons?
I look forward to reading your comments and hearing your stories. It is always a privilege to hear what you are going through and how God is meeting you in the middle of it all.
Copyright © 2022 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.