Redeeming Work: A Guide to Discovering God’s Calling for Your Career
In Redeeming Work, Bryan Dik provides an accessible and data-driven resource for Christians who want to explore the faith-informed career paths that align with their sense of calling. He does an excellent job integrating evidence-based vocational psychology research with scripture, theology, and his own experiences to provide an excellent tool for guiding and exploring multiple pathways that fit the gifts and passions that are unique to each individual. As Dik says, “discerning and living a calling represent an ongoing process, not a once-for-all event” (68). This is the book for everyone and anyone who asks themselves the following questions:
How can I enhance my sphere of influence?
How can I use my gifts to serve the kingdom with greater impact?
Are there other opportunities that would permit me to live my calling more effectively?
Dik provides the reader with practical, actionable, tested methods for seeking and discerning calling. First, he provides the foundations to his approach to vocation and calling from a scriptural lens. He utilizes the four-act story of creation—fall—redemption—restoration as a theological lens to understand the part we can play in God’s larger story through our work. The second section of the book explores and provides tools to discern the multiple vocational pathways through practical steps. The steps guide the reader through a self-assessment of gifts, interests, personality, values, the fit of diverse paths, and approaches to securing a job. Finally, the last section of the book focuses on themes of living out a calling through work and career. Dik defines calling as “the pathway through which we can express our gifts for the common good, and for God’s glory” (22).
The Bible’s four-act story is Dik’s primary lens through which an individual can view the story of their career as it fits into the broader story of scripture and God’s plan for the world. Dik argues that many approaches to vocation only include sin and salvation. But this two-act story equates redemption with escape. Alternatively, the four-act story calls us to partner with the work of God in His “grand mission of caring for and cultivating creation” (18) through our work and unique callings.
In his work as a vocational psychologist, Dik found that the concept of calling was underexplored. In vocational psychology, only eight studies existed on calling at the time he started to explore questions of faith and vocational integration. He has since conducted a number of empirical studies with thousands of undergraduate participants at large public universities1 and with employed United States adults exploring the prevalence of calling. He found that the notion of calling is surprisingly prevalent, that the connection between calling and positive career development is significantly linked to job satisfaction, and that the tie between calling and general well-being is strong: people are happier, more satisfied, cope better, and express a stronger sense of meaning and purpose when they have a sense of calling.2
Dik’s research and mentoring of students and young professionals uncovered a series of half-truths that are prevalent in Christians’ beliefs about calling: 1) “If I’m serious about my faith, I should consider ministry and missions before anything else” (31). Rather than seeing secular work as a support of those with “sacred” callings, Dik avers that this perspective ignores the role of gifts and the unique roles in which those gifts can be expressed. 2) “To discern my calling, I should pray and wait for God’s direction” (35). The problem here is not with the waiting but the passive posture with which one waits. Instead, Dik offers a perspective of actively researching and exploring while also praying and waiting for guidance and discernment. 3) “If I’m not careful, I might miss my calling” (36). Dik illustrates the tension between God’s will of decree and God’s will of desire. He states that “everything that happens, happens because of God’s will of decree (38),” indicating that all things happen according to the plan and purpose of God. On the other hand, it is also true that God desires us to walk with him in obedience—implying that we have a choice in our desire to understand and obey the will of God. For most of us there is more than one answer and more than one path through which we can work out our God-given gifts, passions, and desires in clusters of occupations that would be faithful to our call to glorify God and make the world better. 4) “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called” (42). In contradiction to this statement, Dik points out that God both equips the called and calls the equipped.
Living a calling is a dynamic and unfolding process. According to Dik, the process starts with discernment, both through spiritual practices (prayer and exploration of scripture) and by getting active through self-assessments of gifts and conducting thorough research of career options. He offers several guiding spiritual practices for discernment and psychometrically proven tools for getting active. Specifically, Dik offers free access to UPathway—an assessment tool that enables us to discern our gifts based on interests, values, personality, and abilities.
Throughout the book, the author highlights the importance of positioning calling within the opportunities we see to glorify God and make the world better in any line of work. As one considers the multiple options to live out a calling, a central question is “how do you live out your faith in this field?” (93). As a calling is built, Dik encourages the reader that: “Discerning and living a calling are ongoing processes, a lifestyle of striving to serve faithfully while also looking for new ways to use your gifts within God’s kingdom” (95).
Overall, Dik does a masterful job of integrating a Biblical narrative with empirically validated tools for navigating career and vocational discernment. He recognizes the contributions of the faith and work community over the years and brings a needed lens of vocational psychology that I believe will prove useful to many who are on a lifelong vocational journey of discernment. This book should be helpful to staff and faculty advisors in all disciplines, to students who are exploring future career opportunities, and for Christians who are facing a career job shift, or who are continuously reassessing the impact of their work on kingdom goals to glorify God and better humanity.
Cite this article
- Bryan J. Dik, Brandy M. Eldridge, Michael F. Steger, and Ryan D. Duffy, “Development and Validation of the Calling and Vocation Questionnaire (CVQ) and Brief Calling Scale (BCS),” Journal of Career Assessment 20 (2012), 242–263.
- At the time of this book’s publication, the study was unpublished. Since then, it appeared as Micah J. White, Dylan R. Marsh, Bryan J. Dik, and Cheryl L. Beseler, “Prevalence and Demographic Differences in Work as a Calling in the United States: Results from a Nationally Representative Sample,” Journal of Career Assessment 29 (2021), 624–643.