At 21-years of age, a fresh graduate of a top business school in Canada, I had no job and little direction in my life. Fast-forward 15 years. I’m now in a place where I am confident in my calling and have found a various ways to live it out meaningfully. How did I get here?

Searching for Meaning in My Work

My first job out of university was working for a small business. The owners were lifelong Christians who wanted to glorify God in their work. During my three years there we tried various ways of glorifying God in business, including setting up an office prayer meeting and inviting our colleagues to outreach events at our churches. While these efforts were meaningful, they represented a small percentage of the work that I was actually doing.

My work consisted of helping customers arrange shipments out of Canada to Asia, things like lumber, grain, and cow mattresses (who knew cows slept on mattresses?). While the work was interesting and I was good at it, I saw little meaning in it. Wanting to make a difference in the world, I spent the majority of my evenings and weekends volunteering at my church and starting a non-profit with my friends. But I was unhappy at my job.

My Quarter-Life Crisis

When I turned 25, I quit my job to travel. I jokingly call it my quarter-life crisis. I was having a crisis of identity and felt directionless in my life. My job wasn’t going well and I wasn’t sure what to do. Over the next 6 months I travelled to Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, Macau, and various parts of China like Beijing, Datong, Guilin, Dali, Lizhang, and the beautiful Tiger Leaping Gorge.

All through my trip I asked myself and God the question, “What should I do with my life?” I wanted to know what type of career I should pursue. Was it business? Was it ministry? As I reflected on this question, God helped me shift my question from “What should I do?” to “Who am I?” I realized that calling was a question about identity before it was a question about work. Understanding who I was at the core would help me discern what I should do. I had found the right question to ask, but little did I know that it would take another 5 years to find a fitting answer.

Looking for Meaningful Work in Full-Time Ministry

At the end of my trip I needed to decide what work to do. During a 3-day silent retreat, a passage of Scripture jumped out at me:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV)

Every good work. Not just ministry, but “regular” jobs too. How were Scripture and the Christian faith relevant and useful to a person in their everyday work? This was the question I had asked myself over the past 3 years while working. I was determined to find out.

Back in Canada I decided to work with a Christian missions organization to help young professionals find out how their faith impacted their work. What better place to find meaningful work than in full-time ministry helping to fulfill the Great Commission?

Looking back I could see that I was drawn to the fact that everyone in the missions organization felt passionate about their work. I felt a deep passion for the work as well. I believed strongly in the mission and vision of the ministry, and felt compelled to contribute to it to the best of my abilities. Unfortunately that wasn’t enough.

RELATED: 4 Practical Ways to Discern Your Calling

Facing Depression

As hard as I tried, I was not achieving the goals that the missions organization had set for me. It was not for lack of effort. I tried. But I just couldn’t do it the way everyone else was. And I fell into a depression. I felt like a failure.

I switched roles to another part of the ministry which gave me a boost in energy. But that was short-lived. I fell into another depression, struggling every morning to wake up and go to work. I felt ashamed that I couldn’t muster up the passion and motivation to serve God.

Through the friendship of mentors, the insight of a counsellor, and the companionship of my wife, I learned to see depression as a gift from God. Instead of seeing it as an enemy trying to destroy me, my depression was a friend shouting at me to stop and listen. Stop being who the missions organization was telling me to be. Stop being what I thought my friends and family wanted me to be. Stop trying to be who I wanted me to be. Instead, I was invited to listen to my life and let it speak to me, to tell me who I am.

Taking a Sabbatical and Uncovering my Calling

When I turned 30 years old I took a month-long Sabbatical where I stopped to listen to my life. I spent the month reading, praying, journaling, reflecting, and listening to God.

During that time God prompted me to think about my past experiences and the things that I was drawn to do at various seasons of my life. I thought back to experiences from high school, youth group, university, campus group, church life, various jobs, and interactions with my family, my friendships, and my marriage. What I realized was that there were recurring themes that appeared over and over. Eventually, I came to recognize these themes to be my calling in life. My personal calling revolves around the themes of community, meaning, and growth.

Coming out of my Sabbatical I wrote a proposal for my bosses about how I could both live out my calling and meet the organization’s goals. Although they liked my ideas, they weren’t ready to make a change. I knew then that I had to leave.

God Opened a Door to Start a Business

I wanted to start a business but I didn’t know what type of business to start. My wife and I were blogging about marriage and parenting at that time and it was gaining traction. We decided to commit 1 year to blogging full-time in hopes of turning it into a business. Because we had no income, we learned to do everything on our own. We wrote two books, self-published them, and promoted them. We started making some money, but not enough to support our family.

About 9 months into our full-time blogging experience, two separate business owners approached me for marketing help. They had seen our website and social media activity and thought we could help them with the marketing of their business.

That was how God opened the door for us to start Coracle Marketing. Our business now allows me to live out my calling in life. We help small business owners grow their business through marketing. I talk to the business owners about their vision for the business, the heart behind it, and what makes their work meaningful. We have conversations about how to make their marketing meaningful. This is a very tangible way I can live out my calling of meaning. One of the goals of marketing is to help grow the company. This allows me to live out my calling of growth.

6 Years of Living Out My Calling

It’s been 6 years since I first uncovered my calling. The energy I have towards my work has not waned during this time. In fact, it has grown. To me this is a sign that I’m doing something right, that I am on the track towards living out my calling and doing the work that I was created to do. I care deeply about my work and believe that my work is a tangible way for me to serve others and to work with God in redeeming the world. I have motivation to persevere through the challenges and difficulties that my business presents, knowing that although it is hard and difficult at times, it is worth it.

Tim helps small business owners use strategic marketing to grow meaningfully and do good work in the world. He believes strongly that calling is a competitive advantage in business and the key to living a fulfilling life. Tim lives with his beautiful wife Olive and 2 daughters near Vancouver, Canada. You can read Tim's marketing advice at www.coraclemarketing.com/blog.
  • Alex Tran

    This is a great reminder to trust in God’s timing. For me, I have a subconscious pressure of figuring everything all out in my 20s. I have a long way to go, so I’m trusting in the timing. Despite failures, God works everything together.