I Said, ‘Yes,’ God Said ‘No’

Discerning not to take a job and trusting God with the future

I don’t know too many people who get really excited about job hunting. As a new graduate, I certainly do not look forward to curling up with my laptop on a Friday night to rework my résumé.

I’m in my mid-20s. I have two degrees, and I’m nearing the end of a one-year internship. When my internship ends, I will join countless new graduates searching for their perfect career while trying to be realistic about paying bills.

Recently I was offered an awesome “grown up” job and surprised myself by turning it down even though I have no idea where I’m going to live or work in six weeks. And that’s totally fine with me.

Big decision

A while back, I heard that a great nonprofit organization was hiring. The position wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but the title was very impressive, and I was passionate about the work the group was doing. So, I figured I had nothing to lose by applying.

Before I knew it, I was in my favorite interview outfit explaining to a panel why I would be the perfect person for this position. Seven hours later, I had a job offer sitting in my inbox. I had four days to make one of the biggest decisions of my young life.

Initially I was very excited. I felt like the kid who got picked first in gym class. The cool kids wanted me on their team. High fives all around!

Nonetheless, something was amiss in my heart. In recent years, I have been strongly convicted that I am called to be a journalist. It’s where I feel that I can best use my gifts to serve God and the world. But there I was with a totally viable non-journalism job offer on the table.

Signs from God

Cue the ever-tricky process of discernment: listening to God’s call for one’s life. God doesn’t generally speak to me in booming voices from the Heavens, so I try to look for more practical signs in my everyday life. At the time I received this offer, I had just finished a novena to St. Joseph. (A novena is nine days of successive prayer, in which you ask for the intersession of a saint for a particular intention.)

Well, I thought, maybe this is it. It’s not what I expected, but I prayed for a job and this is a job. The ease with which this is coming together must be my “sign.”

The position required me to lay down my dreams and my expectations. It required me to live a pretty radical lifestyle and live indefinitely in a country that is not my own.

But, I told God I was open to whatever path He had picked out for me. Even though this job wasn’t what I had planned for myself, I was confident that if this was my call, it would bring me joy and allow me to use my gifts in an even greater way than I could in a media job.

In that moment, I abandoned all my desires for my career to God. And that’s when I got my answer: I felt overwhelming peace in the fact that this was not the job for me. It’s as if God was waiting for me to say, “yes” so that He could say, “no.” If I had immediately said “no” for selfish reasons, I would have denied God the use of the gifts He gave me.

My gifts are not my own

Through this whole process I learned some important lessons:

  • Just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean you should do it.
  • In times of darkness or confusion, it’s important to look to what we know is true in the light. In the excitement of being pursued for this job, I lost sight of my call to journalism and using gifts I had worked hard to build.
  • That being said, it’s essential to remember that discernment requires total abandonment to seemingly crazy possibilities. When we truly open ourselves to God’s plan for our lives, ultimately we will be guided to joys greater than we could imagine for ourselves.
  • God never asks us to give up something to lead us somewhere worse. I’ve said “no” to the fancy job title, but the job I get will be better because it will be the right job for me.

Not everyone has the luxury of pursuing their dream job. Many are called to set aside their desires and do what is required to make ends meet and provide for themselves and their families. This heroic act likewise requires abandonment to God’s will and patience to endure difficult circumstances.

I like to think that I’m like the boy in the gospel story of the feeding of the 5,000. He offered Jesus a meager five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus took this gift and transformed it into a feast to feed a huge crowd. Similarly, I have a few small blessings, that when offered freely to God can be transformed into something great. My gifts are not my own, but are to be used to build God’s kingdom. When I use my gifts for God, I experience joy exponentially greater than when I use those blessings for selfish gains.

It’s ok that I have no idea where I’m going to work in a couple of months. I’m following God’s will so I have a future full of hope.

For know well the plans I have in mind for you — oracle of the LORD — plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. — Jeremiah 29:11