by Tiffany C. Chaney

Life would be easier if I woke up in the morning and there, waiting for me, was a message from God outlining the plan I should follow for the day. There is an app on my phone with my music, books, shopping list, bank transactions, directions to meetings, pictures and even one that counts every step I take. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an app with daily instructions from God?

I have a Bible app on my phone from which I read Scripture daily. But a more specific instruction from God, such as a daily “Dear Tiffany” app, could be helpful. For instance, what if I knew where to be at every moment? What if I knew who the right people were to talk to and what jobs to take? What if I knew which places to visit and those to avoid? It seems life would be so much easier.

Yet, the fact remains that I do not have turn-by-turn directions. Rather, God has given us all free will to make decisions in our lives as we live as God’s servants in the world. We are equipped with gifts, infused with creativity, and empowered to serve in the world around us. But sometimes making life’s difficult decisions can be a struggle.

A convo about vocation

More about #Vocation

The Tapestry of vocation by Rebeckah Selnick
Finding your path by Megan Jane Jones
Leap by Amber Leberman
Listening to God: A guide to discernment by Debra Farrington

Over the last several months, I have been in conversation with other young women about discerning God’s call for them. Most were at a crossroads, a place of making a life-changing decision about the next step in their lives.

Some were transitioning from college and preparing to enter the workforce for the first time. Some were in one career to earn a living but wanted to take a more risky change to follow their dreams. Some had recently made a transition to entrepreneurship to live their passion daily, but met with disappointment as the transition was more difficult than anticipated.

Some had no idea what God was calling them to do with their lives. Others were settled into their career and thriving, advancing in their organization, but felt something missing in their life as they longed for a family of their own. They were wondering if they had unexpectedly made a tradeoff. Still others enjoyed their job, had a great spouse and children, but really struggled with balancing it all. Several were in a place of helping aging parents and grandparents and trying to figure out how to make decisions for their own lives while mindful of the changes happening in their elders’ lives.

As I participated in conversations with these young women, there were a few common themes that rose to the surface. Sometimes we are hard on ourselves. In our quest to live life to its fullest, many of us fret that we are going to mess up. We fear we’re going to ruin something in our jobs. We’re going to damage our children. We’re going to let people at work figure out we don’t know as much as they think we do. We’re going to miss the great love of our life. Or maybe we’ll disappoint somebody. And, as a result, we end up living in fear, always trying to please everybody–an impossible task.

God is with us

For many of us, before we can hear from God, we have to stop beating ourselves up. We have to realize that we’re doing our best and believe that we are enough just as we are, flaws and all.

God is with us. In these conversations I heard faith articulated. People who could not see how to get from where they are in life to where they felt called to go still managed to believe God was with them. Time and time again, I heard stories of struggle, immediately followed by statements of faith. Many spoke about times when they felt God present in their lives in other situations in the past. Though they struggled with discerning the voice of God this time, they believed God was present and moving in their lives.

Several women noted the ways they have seen their spiritual lives evolve over the time of their discernment, acknowledging how this prepared them for the decision they faced now.

God works through us to support one another. Have you ever had a friend, colleague, or stranger speak a word to you out of nowhere that breathes life into you when you least expect it?

It happened to me the other day when I was riding to a meeting with a colleague and friend. As we shared our respective struggles, he made a simple statement to me and I realized I had just heard the gospel. He spoke the message I needed to hear without even knowing it. God works through us to support one another while we discern life’s direction. Through the wise counsel of friends, family members, spiritual directors, pastors and others, we are helped along as we walk the journey of life. We hold up one another along the way through sacred conversations and often just through our presence.

In the midst of the tough parts of life, there are also many joys. From the same people who told me about their struggles, I also heard about the great joys from their work in interesting projects. They spoke of the cool things their kids were doing, awesome friends they made recently and divine conversations that had happened. These incredible joys strengthened these women for their journeys.

On life’s most difficult days, when I wish I had my “Dear Tiffany” letter from God, I remember that I already do. Every day, God is speaking to me through Scripture, through the people around me, through life’s experiences, through prayer–all helping me discern the path I am called to in life.

Discussion questions:

1. In what ways might you be too tough on yourself? Has striving for perfection interfered with your ability to hear God speaking?
2. Who are the people in your life who support you when you need it the most? Who are you holding up? Can you be more intentional about scheduling sacred conversations with your divine connections?
3. What have you read in Scripture lately, learned from your recent experiences and conversations, and heard as answers to prayer that might be God leading you in your discernment? Write yourself a letter recording these divine lessons.

Closing prayer

God our Creator, in those times when I find myself in one of life’s tough places, help me to believe I am good enough, wonderfully and uniquely made by you. Remind me that I am not alone on the journey–you are with me and there are people around me supporting me along the way. Also, show me those people around me who maybe need my support. Help me to hold up those around me, even as I am held. Amen.

The Rev. Tiffany C. Chaney is pastor/mission developer of The Intersection, a congregation under development of the Evangelical Church in America, located in Dorchester, Mass.

This issue of Café was sponsored by the women of United Lutheran Church, Oak Park, Il.

This group has a number of active programs in the church and in the local community. Every year they hold a Cookie Walk to fund some of their ministries. Their donation of $400 to Cafe will go to offset the cost of paying a young adult woman in ministry for her writing. You can learn more about this bold group of women from their website.

To sponsor an issue visit the “donate now” page.

Pictured from the left: Lily Finn, Annette Finn and Ruth Prescott. It was Annette’s idea to share some of the proceeds with Cafe. Photo by Elizabeth McBride.