by Emily Conrad

When I invest in my calling, I want that time and energy to appreciate immediately, my returns to increase in a steady, dependable manner.

Instead, looking back, I see a jagged line of returns.

By the way, in case you were wondering, the title image is NOT from my stats. My average daily viewers range from 8 (hey, friends!) to 45, depending on what service the stats come from. That’s a fun discrepancy, isn’t it? But I digress…

Regardless of what data I’m looking at to judge my effectiveness as a writer, signs of positive impact–page views, comments, shares, notes–spike and fall.

Sure, I seem to be growing closer to Jesus as the line of following my calling progresses, but am I making a difference? Am I reaching people? Does anybody care?

Whether your calling is in words or something else, you wonder these things, too, don’t you?

Give up, Doubt says. Invest in a sure bet.

If my calling is writing, my sure bet would be a regular full-time job. With a dependable job, I could make money, and maybe even land promotions. Wouldn’t that be easier and more rewarding?

Whatever your calling is, in many ways, it doesn’t seem like a sure bet, does it? It involves risk. It involves a jagged line of returns, and sometimes, it seems, all you do is lose on the gamble.

Is it time for us all to cut our losses and give up? At least for a little while?

I’m not much of an investor, but I’ve heard a little about the stock market and I’ve taken an economics class. (Yes, that’s singular, so no, what follows is not investment advice. Don’t take it as such.) My understanding is that the stock market has ups and downs, some steeper and longer-lasting that others, but the overall trend over time has been up.

Unfortunately, there are still downswings—on the whole, and certainly in individual stocks. When stock prices are falling and investments are losing value, it’s tempting to get out. Sell it off and cut your losses.

The problem with that strategy is the market can return without notice to its upward trend with a steep spike. The chart tracking the Dow Jones Industrial Average for the last 100 years is a jagged line of spikes and dips, confirming that when things change, they often do so in sudden spurts.

Somewhere along the line, I was warned that missing just one or two of those upward spurts will mean missing out on the growth you could’ve had. Those who get out and want back in after things have turned around will have to repurchase stocks at a higher price, essentially losing money.

People who ride it out, waiting or even buying more stock instead of selling when prices drop, are there for the spurts that result in growth for their portfolio.

Again, I’m not qualified to give investment advice, but this applies to our callings, too, doesn’t it? Like the stock market, many factors go into the fruit we see from following our callings. We can do all of our homework and still not be able to predict what will happen next.

For example, if I only published posts I felt sure would do well, there would be very few posts up on this site, and many that have done well wouldn’t be here. I also wouldn’t do the work on my platform that could help my reach when things do turn around.

If this writing gig is truly a calling from Jesus, then I’m assured that following it will yield fruit in time. Quitting in a slump when Jesus hasn’t asked me to will significantly limit my effectiveness for Him, and this idea is much older than the stock market.

Send your grain overseas,
for after many days you will get a return.
He who watches the wind will not sow,
and he who observes the clouds will not reap.
Just as you do not know the path  of the wind,
or how the bones form in the womb of a pregnant woman,
so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.
Sow your seed in the morning,
and do not stop working until the evening;
for you do not know which activity will succeed –
whether this one or that one, or whether both will prosper equally.
Ecclesiastes 11:1, 4-6 (NET)

If you’re watching the wind and the clouds for signs that now is the perfect time to do the work of God before you start investing your time and energy, you’re going to miss out.

A blogger discouraged by falling numbers might quit just before they would’ve written a post that would’ve changed someone’s perspective.

A writer faced with their one hundredth rejection might decide now is not the time to submit her work and miss the window of opportunity she didn’t even know was open at her dream publisher.

Outside of writing, a woman witnessing to a friend may decide it’s a lost cause and stop so that someone else has the privilege of leading her to Christ.

Examples could go on and on.

No, it doesn’t all depend on us. Our loving and all-powerful God will reach who He wants to reach, regardless of anything or anyone else. But He gives us the opportunity to participate in what He’s doing.

We never know when the upswing will come. We never know what will succeed and what will fail.

And speaking of successes and failures, what if God has His eye on a completely different data set than the one we keep trying to manipulate? This isn’t so far-fetched. His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are higher than ours.

Even if we are monitoring good data, we can’t be sure of its accuracy. If my blog stats, which should be fairly straight-forward (in theory), can vary so widely, how much more varied is any data we collect on something as complex as a lifetime calling? We often don’t hear about lives we’ve impacted in some small way, but those small moments add up to big differences.

If we only do what is sure to succeed–and that by our standards rather than by God’s–we’ll miss out.

Do you have a calling? Then keep going.

For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6, NET

Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour. Resist him, strong in your faith, because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are enduring the same kinds of suffering. And, after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him belongs the power forever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:8-11, NET

With God, there is always an upswing. Investing in Him and in the work He’s called you to is a sure bet.

If we only do what is sure to succeed–and that by our standards rather than by God’s–we’ll miss out. #faith #dontgiveup #success via @emilyrconrad

Photo credits
Falling numbers photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash
Laptop with graphs photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash
Laptop with streamers photo by on Unsplash