The Wandering Thirty-Somethings

What do I want to do with my life? If I could capture the thirty-somethings in a single sentence, that would be it. Sure, we think about this question from time to time before we’re thirty, but it’s always with an air of optimistic ambition.

Mommy, I want to be a princess! I want to walk on the moon. Maybe I’ll be a doctor. Or a chef. Then college rolls around, and many of us choose a fascinating, but less-than-marketable major. Or we get that accounting degree and realize crunching numbers isn’t as fulfilling as we’d hoped. If somewhere along this journey we also get married, it only becomes more complicated. We may be one of the fortunate few who has found our niche in a field we love, while our spouse is the barista with a humanities degree.

What Does God Want?

One way or another, we find ourselves going through the motions with an irritating sense of dissatisfaction. What do I want to do with my life? The question is no longer dusted with optimism so much as frayed with panic. If you’re a Christian, you may phrase it a little differently: What does God want me to do with my life? We may know the biblical commands: He wants us to be holy, to love Him more than anything else, to make disciples of all nations. But specifically, what does He want me to do? How does He want me to fulfill His commands? As a godly engineer, missionary, piano teacher? How?

Different Approaches

So emerge an array of different thirty-something approaches. There are the Plodders, who accept the fact that work and passion may not fit in the same sentence. They work in order to do the things they are passionate about. Then there are the Risk-Takers. They are the start-your-own-business, move-across-the-globe, take-a-year-off-and-write-that-book kind of people, who would rather try and fail than settle for ho-hum. There are the ADD Go-Getters who find a new career calling every thirty days. The In-Transitioners who live in a constant state of waiting—waiting for the kids to get a little older, the savings account to get a little heftier, the right door to swing open.

For the record, my husband and I have tried it all: faithfully plodding along at unexciting jobs, taking a life-changing risk that ended in spectacular failure, getting excited about a different “calling” every five minutes, and of course my least favorite of all—waiting.

Obviously, not every thirty-something has the same experience. There are thirty-somethings who live like fifty-somethings, with an enviable sense of “arrival.” Fulfilling job, comfortable mortgage, deep roots. I will confess, I’ve always longed for such a sense of establishment. To be settled. To be secure. But if you’re in a season of wandering, let me share one comfort I’ve learned to treasure: Wandering can be worshipful.

Two Types of Wandering

When I read the Bible, I see two different types of wandering. One is the result of sin and unbelief. Think of the Israelites roaming the desert for forty years or Jonah trapped in the belly of a fish (talk about a season of feeling stuck!) because he refused to obey God. This wandering is truly aimless, and unless something changes, hopeless.

But there is also a nomadic type of wandering in the Bible. Abraham living in tents. Jacob sleeping on a stone. Joseph sitting in prison 200 miles from home. Surely, each of them must have felt a little bit lost sometimes. Uncertain, clueless, and afraid. But unlike the Israelites in the desert, each of these men allowed their endless not-knowing to drive them to desperate dependence on Someone Greater than themselves.

That is the power of wandering. It has the ability to cripple our sense of sufficiency. To expose our vulnerability. To toss us like a drowning child into the arms of God. In this way, wandering can be worshipful. It can be a daily song of faith.

If you’re in a season of wandering, ask yourself three questions: Have I closed my spirit to God’s call? Have I hardened my heart in unbelief? Am I pursuing worldly ambitions? If the answer to one or all of these questions is “yes,” then your wandering may be directly tied to sin in your life. The great news is that God’s will and purpose will become clear as you repent and turn to Him. If the answer to those questions is “no,” then you can have the confidence of 1 John 5:14, which promises that “if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” As you pray in line with God’s will, asking for His direction in your life, He will hear and answer you in His perfect timing.

In the Meantime

The toughest thing about God’s perfect timing is that it rarely aligns with our own. Joseph was seventeen years old when he had a vision of his brothers bowing down to him. Do you know how long it took for the vision to be fulfilled? For the puzzle pieces of his life to finally fit together in a way that made sense? Twelve years. Not easy years, either. Twelve years that included betrayal, slavery, false accusations, and imprisonment.

As we wait on God to make His will known, what do we do? How do we keep from going crazy? For starters, we must remember God’s character and remind our hearts that He is the “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them” (Acts 4:24). He is faithful yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Deut. 7:9). He has not forgotten us, but rather loves us (Ps. 103:17), prays for us (Rom. 8:26), works within us for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13), and has a plan for our lives that will glorify Himself (Jer. 29:11).

Secondly, we remember the final destination. One day, all those who have looked to Christ for salvation will live in a permanent place of belonging. We won’t just be secure on earth, we will be eternally secure. To any wandering thirty-somethings (or twenty, forty, eighty-somethings!) who love Jesus and are weary in the journey, I promise the final destination is coming. And when it does, it will be even more satisfying than a great job, comfortable mortgage, or enviable sense of “arrival.” It will be true arrival, home.

About the Author

Jeanne Harrison

Jeanne Harrison

Jeanne Harrioson grew up as a missionary kid in the Philippines. Today she is a frequent blogger and author passionate about sharing her experiences and wisdom with potential world changers. Jeanne and her pastor husband, Clint, live in Georgia with … read more …

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