The following is written by Diane McClary, a first-year M.Div. student. Thank you for sharing with us, Diane! -Melanie Walk
There are so many nuances to discerning a call from God. It can be joyful, frustrating, painful, confusing, peaceful, complicated, and exciting.
Many divinity school students have probably had a sleepless night or two, and thoughts that keep coming like, “Maybe, I could be a pastor. Maybe, that’s what I was meant to do. But, how do I know if I’m called?”
When I have similar thoughts, I think of young Samuel. As you may recall, Samuel was lying down in the temple when he heard a voice calling his name in 1 Samuel 3. Thinking it was Eli, he ran to the priest. However, Eli said that he had not called Samuel, and told him to go back to bed. Again, Samuel heard a voice calling out his name, and again he ran to the priest. Sensing what was going on, Eli advised, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’” So, Samuel went back to bed, and heard the Lord calling, “Samuel, Samuel.” At that point, Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant hears.”
Perhaps the voice in your head is a thought, not a sound. You remain restless, and wonder, “Is the Lord calling me? If only there was someone like Eli who could help me out!”
Most people who are called have some self-doubts. Moses was worried he wouldn’t be a good enough speaker. Isaiah thought of himself as too great a sinner to stand in the presence of the holy Lord, much less serve as his spokesman and prophet. Bold, brash Peter, upon being called, cried out in Luke 5:8, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
Who among us is better educated than Moses? Who is more holy than Isaiah or Peter? Indeed, none of us is truly worthy to be a minister. It seems only right that we say, “No, I can’t do it. Better men and women are needed.”
Perhaps you do have an Eli, someone who can see your potential. That Eli might be another member of your church, a family member, or your pastor. Your pastor might be saying, “Have you ever considered becoming a missionary?” Or, “You know, I think you’d be a good counselor.” It is possible that you have doubts. If you are wondering, give your pastor or a trusted elder in the church a call. Usually, others have a better perspective on us than we do ourselves. If others confirm what you suspect, then you’re probably on the right track. Every conversation with a trusted friend and mentor can move you closer to the heart of God.
There is one last thing to consider. There are many folks who come to seminary and, like Samuel, have had many sleepless nights and years of wondering. If you think the Lord is calling you, and your pastor agrees, then God probably is calling you. Frankly, life is short. The harvest is great and the workers are few. Admit that you are unworthy of the office, but be bold in answering the Lord’s call. It is through unworthy servants that the gospel is preached, and people are brought into life and salvation.