Have you ever wondered how God was going to use some horrible experience that you’ve had in your life? Maybe you knew that some unique aspect of your life was significant for your life calling, but haven’t been quite sure how that fits into God’s plan for you. Like every other aspect of your calling, understanding how these experiences should be considered is actually quite easy, even if discerning call is still a lifelong process.
In the Pentecostal circles where I learned to be faithful, it was very common to argue that God calls people to various kinds of ministries in spite of that person’s ability to fulfill that calling. As I have written this series on calling, that has been the most common critique of my suggestion that discerning calling is, in most cases, as simple as discerning where your tools meet God’s mission in the world. Many have said that God often calls people to do things that they could have never known if God hadn’t given clear guidance that stood outside reasonable explanation. “David was a small boy,” they say. Jeremiah was too young (Jer. 1:6). Peter and John were “unlearned and ignorant men” (Acts 4:13).
The most common objection always comes from the story of Moses. Moses responded to the Lord by claiming, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” They cite Moses’s objection as if that’s the whole story…”Moses wasn’t qualified to fulfill this calling but God used him anyway.” But that isn’t the whole story.
Moses had a number of experiences that uniquely enabled him to do the work that God had called him to do. His inability to speak was really pretty minor aspect of what would be required for this calling, even if this minor issue was overwhelming for him. Here are just a few things to consider regarding God’s unique preparation for his ministry.
- The weakness that he cites was already completely overcome by his relationship with Aaron. Even if he didn’t have the ability to speak well, his brother would be his mouthpiece. The people that you know are part of your unique toolbox because they can offer you help in areas that you aren’t able to minister. An old friend with graphic design skills may empower you to create a media campaign for a justice issue that is significant to you. Maybe you are networked with a bunch of musicians and bands that you can call on for a benefit concert. Or maybe your relationship with your pastor will open doors to preach in a neighboring congregation where she has friends.
- Moving thousands of people across an open desert would be incredibly difficult. While considerably easier, the task wouldn’t differ significantly from that of herding his father-in-law’s flock. Moving both would require diligence to not leave any behind and an awareness of what would leave them most vulnerable to attack. His unique experience had helped him develop the most basic skills that he would use in this new calling.
- Moses ended up marrying his wife because of God’s positioning him in a place to help her family and her family repaid that help to him. Jethro gave one of his daughters in marriage to Moses, gave him work, and supported him with wisdom and advice as he pursued his calling. The people around you that support your calling are one of the many ways that God equips you to serve. What unique gifts have they given you?
- How do you suppose Moses was able to walk right into Pharoah’s court? This would not have been allowed of just any common person. He was only able to do this because of the people that he knew from having been in Pharoah’s home. Similarly, Moses unique upbringing gave him the languages to speak with both Hebrew people and Egyptian people. His upbringing in royal home provided him with access that no one else would have enjoyed.
Most of these aspects of Moses’ life were very positive experiences that he was later able to utilize in his calling. But sometimes negative experiences can be used just the same. I know a woman that has experienced divorce for whom God has empowered with a mighty ministry to women experiencing divorce. When women are experiencing the most difficult heartbreak of their lives, my friend is able to come alongside them with an understanding that only comes one way: experience.
Sometimes life experiences will be used to not only help a person to minister, but to give them a passion to do so. One of my former students, Lindsey Games, traveled to Jinja, Uganda for just a couple weeks and has never been the same. She discovered a love and passion for that place that is behind every decision that she and her new husband make. Sometimes life experiences help you to discover your passions.
God will use your life experience to craft the ways that you respond to his calling, whether by equipping you or by helping you discover your passion.
Discernment Exercise: Spend some time journaling about the most significant changes in your life. For some people this may be a good time to consider writing a “spiritual autobiography.” There is some good advice for doing so here. As you do so, go back to your spiritual formation inventory that you started earlier and record all of those life experiences and relationships that you think have given you some unique ability to minister. You may also discover some talents that need to be recorded and some passions that were earlier forgotten.
This post is part of a 14 part series to help persons discern God’s call on their lives.
To see all the posts in the “What Am I Called to Do?” series