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When Your Calling Becomes Your Identity

young black woman in a field with her hands raised in the air

By Jenny Marcelene

I once had a clear sense of the calling of God in my life, but one day what I thought had been a lifetime pursuit turned out to be seasonal. 

Perhaps most startling was I hadn’t realized the trail would end there. 

Deep down, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. It was my calling. My dream. My passion. My purpose.

That was the problem: I had turned a passion into my purpose. The danger of allowing my passion to become my purpose meant I was more captivated with what I did instead of with Jesus. 

If you had asked me if Jesus was my first love, I would have responded yes. But it wasn’t until the rug of my calling was pulled from under my feet that I could see He wasn’t. Instead, I had made my passion an idol.

Having lost what I thought I would do the rest of my life, I felt like a ship without an anchor. Mild depression loomed above my head like a dark storm cloud. 

With shards of my dream still crunching underneath my feet, I struggled to make sense of what I was supposed to do now.

Somewhere along the way, a good gift designed to help me enjoy God sneakily crept into the role of my purpose undetected. And in doing so, my heart was obsessed with the gift instead of the Creator. 

Our culture—both secular and Christian— often applauds this type of relentless pursuit above all else, but the Bible makes it clear our calling is not dependent upon what we do or where we live.

The Bible makes it clear our calling is not dependent upon what we do or where we live. Click to Tweet
young woman in prayer about finding your calling

How Idolatry and Identity Impact Your Calling

“Though seeing many things, you do not obey. Though his ears are open, he does not listen.” – Isaiah 42:20 HCSB

One only needs to read the pages of the Old Testament to find this same pattern in the lives of the people of God. In Isaiah 42:18–25, Isaiah envisions the return of the Israelites from exile for their consistent turning away from God and toward false gods. 

Whenever God’s people chase after idols, they forget who God is and who they are (Is 43:10). God reminds His children who they are in light of His character and connects their pursuit of idols to a rejection of Him and of this identity and purpose. 

Just like the Israelites, we can fail to grasp the magnitude of who we were created to be and exchange it for far lesser things. We can sometimes treat our callings, gifts, or passions like the Israelites did theirs. 

We can place our hope in something that cannot satisfy and divert our gaze away from the One we were made to worship. 

We say, “If I get that job. If I get accepted into that college. If I move into that neighborhood. If I (fill in the blank).” We think if we get fulfillment from these purposes, we will be fully satisfied.

When we think our true ministry is around the corner or just beyond our reach or cannot imagine life without doing a certain thing, then our calling has become our purpose and an idol.

When we cannot imagine life without doing a certain thing, then our calling has become our purpose and an idol. Click to Tweet
young woman reading God's word about your calling

When Your Calling Becomes an Idol

“He feeds on ashes. His deceived mind has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself, or say, ‘Isn’t there a lie in my right hand?’” – Isaiah 44:20 HCSB

The lure of finding our meaning outside of Christ is a lie and makes as much sense as eating ashes. Devoting our life to our passion, even in hopes of glorifying God, can sometimes lead us astray. 

While we don’t aim to craft idols, our hearts fabricate them quickly. Our sinful disposition whispers false promises that to be someone in the kingdom of God we need Christ plus something else. Or that God needs us to be a part of a certain work. 

While we would never utter such words aloud during a small group, our hearts can quietly recite these lies and hide them deep within their unwieldy, deceptive depths.

When we shape anything into an idol, God will discipline us for seeking after an unreliable source of hope (Ps 39:11). 

God removed this idol from my life because of His love for me, but it left a void that would take years to process. Idols are subtle but have deep roots like dandelions in our hearts.

I repented of finding my meaning in what I did and the pride of believing God needed me to accomplish His plans. 

I find solace in my first love again; I embraced the beauty of my unchanging identity in Christ.

I rediscovered that my calling in Christ had remained: I will forever be the Lord’s servant and never forgotten (Is 44:21). Despite my wandering heart, God’s faithfulness and character are steadfast. 

Idols are subtle, but have deep roots like dandelions in our hearts. Click to Tweet
young woman's hands folded in prayer to God about your calling

Your Calling Is to Praise God

“The people I formed for Myself will declare My praise.” – Isaiah 43:21 HCSB

At the center of Israel’s idolatry was a too-small view of God, and sometimes this can be true of us as well. 

We can allow a flawed understanding of God to shape our trust in His ways. This is idolatrous. 

We can fail to see God for who He is and turn toward something else we deem better. The Israelites, just like you and me, were a forgetful people. 

Ten times God uses the phrasing “I am” in Isaiah 43 and 44. He drives home the reality of His character so His people can see their foolishness in placing their trust anywhere else besides Him. 

We are called to praise God. Despite our unworthiness to belong to Him, God lavishes His love upon us (Is 43:26; 44:3), and this deserves our praise. 

Our identities are forever bound to Jesus, and our lives reflect His abounding sufficiency to His creation.

We are made to know God and delight in Him—that is the only thing that will satisfy our hungry hearts. When we allow anything else to usurp this, an idol takes root and spreads. Our passions are designed to augment our relationship with God, not define our meaning.

We are made to know God and delight in Him—that is the only thing that will satisfy our hungry hearts. Click to Tweet
young woman reading her Bible and looking up to God about your calling

Your Calling Is Secure With God

“I, Yahweh, have called You for a righteous purpose, and I will hold You by Your hand. I will keep You and appoint You to be a covenant for the people and a light to the nations.” Isaiah 42:6 HCSB

Years after losing a focused direction in my life, my soul still aches. But something beautiful has grown—a deeply rooted trust in a God who doesn’t work in ways I can always comprehend. 

Hope in God can light our way forward even when we don’t know where the next step will land because our identity and callings are secure. 

We must trust God with where He has placed us and faithfully live in the present. God cares far more about our hearts than a specific passion, location, or outcome. 

Even when God exposes our idolatry, He still deeply cares about us, and we can trust whatever is ahead will be for our good and His glory. 

– Jenny Marcelene

Jenny Marcelene spent six years living in conservative Muslim countries and desires to help parents and children catch a glimpse of how God is at work among the nations. Her publishing credits include online articles in The Gospel Coalition, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Momma Theologians, Velvet Ashes, and Gospel-Centered Family.  You can connect with her online by visiting her blog or on Instagram and Twitter.

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