Most of the time, our lives are rather routine. We can predict what we’ll be doing next year because it’s likely very similar to last year. Routine is not a bad thing. Predictability helps us be more effective and efficient.
At certain times, though, our lives become unpredictable. We change jobs. We relocate. We pursue new interests and friends. A new chapter begins.
It’s one thing to begin a new chapter when it’s thrust upon you, say through a job loss. But what about those other, more normal times? How do you know when you’re about to enter a new chapter in your life?
In this post, I examine one of the three signs that might suggest you’re entering a new chapter in your life: The sudden call.
Sometimes we know God is moving us rather abruptly into a new adventure. Like the Old Testament patriarch Abraham obeying the call of God to relocate, sometimes we need to move first before God shows us where to land (Gen 12:1). It wasn’t easy for him. He packed up 75 years of accumulated possessions, livestock, family and servants. And it’s no day trip with a backpack for us either.
Sudden calls are extraordinary occurrences of divine intervention to do something that to others might look crazy.
Several years ago a friend of mine asked for prayer to confirm a sudden call in his life. He was awakened in the middle of the night with a strong conviction that God was asking him to quit his highly successful sales job. But to do what? He didn’t know. When this went on night after night he became convinced that the next job wasn’t the issue. Quitting his current one was. When his wife independently told him she thought he should quit too, he knew needed to act, regardless of the consequences.
Quitting his job without having another in hand defied conventional wisdom. Like Abraham, it was a courageous and costly move. He gave up a certain job for an uncertain future, trusting God for the outcome.
Because of their abrupt nature, sudden calls can create a lot of anxiety. How do I know if what I’m sensing is a calling from God or just a lapse in sanity? What happens if my worst fears about the future come true? How can I explain this to others?
If you think you might have received a sudden call, here are three suggestions to consider:
- Test your equipment. My friend didn’t take act on his first impression. He first tested his equipment: his devotional life. He had a vibrant devotional life, so he prayed and asked God to give him additional insight and confirmation. If you think you’ve received a prompting to act, especially one that might require drastic changes, first evaluate your devotional life. If it’s not as strong as you think you’d like, start there. Reading the bible and time spent in prayer is always the best preparation for action.
- Seek counsel. My friend didn’t rely solely on his own judgment. He sought the advice of those he trusted, and especially the one with whom he’d share the consequences, his wife. Sudden calls are to be spiritually discerned, so seek counsel from those who, themselves, seek God. Of course, any contemplation that contradicts the scriptures cannot, by definition, be a call of God.
- Don’t panic. When my friend decided to pull the trigger and resign, he did something even more courageous. He resisted the temptation to force a solution. It would have been easy to let anxiety take over and take the first job that came his way. Instead, he went on high alert, carefully and intentionally evaluating options, knowing there was a purpose for his move and asking God for the wisdom to discern it. Unknowingly, he followed the advice of theologian Henri Nouwen: “Take time to believe in your free choice before you move forward in a new direction.”
Sudden calls can be some of the most exhilarating ways to begin a new chapter. My friend experienced immense personal growth and a deepened relationship with his wife. But sudden calls are not the most common form of new chapter beginnings. Healthy discontent is much more common. That’s the subject of my next post.
If you’ve had a sudden call experience what are some of the lessons you learned?