Email to a Friend: Struggles, Discontent, Passions vs. Vocations, & Glorifying God in Everything

Brother, you’re speaking my language. This is something I struggle with constantly.

First and foremost, the fact that you’re wrestling with it and using Scripture as the sole guidepost is utterly fantastic. That’s right where you should be. Doubts and struggles are normal, and God expects you to have them. He wouldn’t have given us the Spirit if we didn’t need it.

Not having the struggle is being a “lukewarm Christian”, just going through the motions but still primarily focusing on selfish desires within this world. The Bible says in multiple places that this is essentially worse than not even believing at all.

But, I completely echo what you’re going through. Let me spew out a bunch of stuff. And I’m sorry ahead of time if any of this gets blunt, preachy, or whatever. It’s not aimed at you, but at myself. I’ll always struggle with this stuff, but here’s what I’m learning.

Off the top of my head, here’s what has consumed me at some point in the last few years or so:

  • the day job
  • my web/database server business
  • my consulting and engineering businesses
  • investments
  • flipping websites
  • restoring the truck
  • ever growing pile of mowers and tractors
  • thinking through a business to sell used parts online
  • day dreaming about flipping houses or renting them out
  • day dreaming about working for a nonprofit
  • volunteering
  • finishing the basement
  • other stuff like researching campers and boats, some fishing this year, etc.

I had a mentor, years ago, have me take a piece of paper and start writing things down that I was currently doing, thinking about doing, or currently responsible for. It freaked me the heck out how many things I wrote down. Pages.

My head is like a nervous chihuahua, always shaking and never focusing.

I’ve actually seen a counselor multiple times, worked with an executive/career coach for a season, and talk to a lot of mentors (and Jenel) all the time. Between that and a lot of prayer, I’m learning some things about myself:

First and most importantly, trying to find happiness and fulfillment in ANYTHING other than your relationship in Christ and your hope in the new world will leave you disappointed. Always. Lately, I re-read Ecclesiastes more than anything in the Bible. The king had “everything under the sun”, yet found nothing but hopelessness. Your career, your hobbies, even your family can’t provide real fulfillment. Thinking the latter isn’t true is why the divorce rate is high.

I’ve always dealt with significant discontent and “grass is always greener” issues when it comes to my career. I look at nonprofits, consulting, working on physical stuff, etc. in stupid “man, then I’d be happy” ways. When in reality, I know a ton of people in nonprofits that are flat-out miserable, consultants that are broke and would love a day job, house-flippers on every anxiety med known to man, and tradesmen with destroyed bodies.

“Follow your passion!” is literally the worst career advise anyone has ever given. Mike Rowe (the Dirty Jobs guy) talks about this all the time. You career is something you’re good at, wired for, provides a service or value, and can make a good living off of, but is ultimately a means to an end.

Hobby time is for your “passions”.

We know a lot of folks that were never all that good with money and financial planning, and are now looking at not being able to retire until they’re almost 70. Pair that with dying industries and rampant ageism, they’re having a rough go of it. I think some of what I go through comes back to over-compensating for this. It’s almost like I feel I need to over-plan and over-work to make sure we don’t end up in that situation, while not trusting God to take care of it. I’m a planner, anxious, and stubborn as hell. Bad combo, sometimes.

God doesn’t need everyone to be nonprofit founders, pastors, missionaries, or folks directly using their job to evangelize. If that were the case, the world would implode. Instead, many of us are called to work hard in secular jobs, make a good living, be generous with our income, and keep our eyes open for ways to physically help when we’re supposed to. The coach I worked with helped me come to this conclusion: my calling might be more to work in my (sorry, not trying to be chest thumpy with this…) high income career path purely so that we can be way more generous and fund nonprofits, as opposed to working directly for a nonprofit. I could have more impact in the world by doing that, rather than giving up what I have.

I always struggle with being satisfied.

To deliberately choose a different job, outside of your calling and the path that God set out for you, is being both disobedient and ungrateful.

If Jenel and I look backwards, we can clearly see a direct path that God setup for us that led me to where I’m at right now. I’m able to see each step of the way filling some gap, preparing me for something next, or giving me visibility at just the right time. It’s the only way I can explain it — not just dumb luck, and certainly not thanks to me alone. So it’s been really helpful to look at my current job with that in mind, then be able to see I’m exactly where I’m meant to be right in this moment.

So more specifically, we’ve narrowed things down to this:

My vocational calling is to be an engineering manager and behind-the-scenes leader.

I also take on side-work (consulting, servers, Donation Spring, etc.), but only when God gives me a specific opportunity and only when things meet a narrowly-scoped “yes framework” the coach helped me make (I only say yes if it doesn’t demand a ton of my individual time, if I can mostly farm the work out to the guys that work for me, it won’t be significantly ongoing, etc.). This work should be purely to allow us to be more generous, and I have to constantly live in the tension of that vs. over-working for selfish gain.

Hobbies like Mower Mission are something I’m passionate about, I enjoy doing, and see as an outlet. But more importantly, it’s a (silly) way to spread the Gospel. The goal isn’t mowers in and of themselves, but building relationships with the people we give them to, as well as giving them Bibles at the same time. And for taking our kids along with us to make sure they can see what we do and get outside their comfort zones.

Other hobbies that don’t directly evangelize are still Godly! The Bible has a lot of passages talking about God being in anything we do well and for His glory. That includes seemingly silly things like the truck or fishing. You’re practicing a craft, doing your best with the skills you were given, learning, and not sitting on your ass. Learning and mastering something pleases God, as long as it’s not for selfish reasons. You need time for yourself to unwind and “rest”. But…

…my wife and kids are my priority, here. If it’s not directly for my job, a side-gig that has clearly been provided for me, something I can be doing to evangelize or serve in minor ways without completely overrunning free time, or something I can do a bit to unwind, I’m currently saying “no” to it. That included reneging on some consulting contracts, shutting down other businesses, etc. It was painful, but worth it.

I don’t know if all this is helping, or is just an exhausting amount of “Deep Thoughts by Brett”…

Again, none of this is me preaching at you like I’ve got it all figured out. I got about 3 hours of sleep last night, am predisposed to anxiety/panic, see counselors, pray while my head hits my desk hard, have an impossible time saying “no”, and have been day dreaming about shit that doesn’t matter. All while finding more and more gray hairs, realizing I’m close to mid-30s, and knowing how much time I’ve wasted on meaninglessness and pointless “planning”.