I am a graduating senior with a major in social work. As of May, I will be on my own and needing to go somewhere. However, my destination is unknown. I have applied to graduate school, only to give myself another choice. I have been praying that God will show me where He wants me to go, but I can't seem to find any clear direction. I have committed myself to doing whatever He wants me to do, but even though I hate to admit it, I am growing impatient. Do you have any advice for me? It's obvious that I need all the help I can get. Thanks!
I wonder what you mean by "my destination is unknown"? Maybe just that you don't have a job yet -- but I think you're telling me that you aren't sure what you really want to do. Well, there are a number of possible reasons for your anxiety. Here are a few of them. (1) You just have butterflies. (2) You like social work, but have good reason (I mean more than just butterflies) to think you won't be able to succeed in grad school. (3) You never did plan to pursue a social work-related profession, because you had expected to be married by now. (4) You’re beginning to suspect that the world view promoted in secular social work programs is antithetical to Christian faith, and you’re rightly uneasy about it. (5) You had planned to pursue a social work profession, but for one reason or another you've changed your mind. Let’s discuss each of these possibilities in turn.
As to possibility 1, butterflies aren’t unusual as graduation day approaches. I realize that knowing this won't make them disappear, but perhaps it may keep you from adding to them by thinking "I'm not supposed to feel this way!" If your anxieties have no further basis, they'll probably fade, and you needn't think you need to change your plans. The sheer discrepancy between a ceremony that says "You're finished" and a professional program that says "You're not" gets some people down too. If that’s the only problem, take heart, because as you begin new studies and make new friends, that feeling will probably pass too.
If you fall into category 2, the answer to your dilemma is plain: Find out what kind of work an undergrad social work degree does qualify you to do without continuing. Your teachers may or may not be able to tell you. Try them, but by all means speak to a career counselor too. Most schools offer skills assessment and career counseling services; for a fee, so do some private companies. If your school has weak career counseling services, consider going to a private career counseling service, but research it thoroughly first. By the way -- don't assume that the only work a social work major can do is work which resembles social work. A good career counselor will be able to suggest fields that you might never have considered on your own. You may also find that you have job-related knowledge or talents which are unconnected with your major. So be flexible.
If you're in category 3 -- you never planned to pursue a social work career because you had expected to be married by now -- seeing a career counselor is a good thing for you too. Practically speaking, this situation and the last one are the same. In both cases, you've got some training, you don't want to go further with it, and you need to find out what you can do with the training you've got already.
As to possibility 4 -- what can I say? The world view promoted in secular social work programs is antithetical to Christian faith. If those are the only kinds of programs that you’ve heard of, what you need to do is find a graduate program that isn’t like that. Just for illustration, you might look into the Institute for the Psychological Sciences in Arlington, Virginia.
But what if you fall into category 5? What if you need to make a flight plan change because although you used to want to do social work, you've realized that you're just not cut out for it? In this case too you should talk with a career counselor -- but you need to do something else first.
What is the Something Else? Inventory your resources. After all, you're about to choose a different career than you had originally planned. Some changes might require you to put off graduation, or to get into a longer or more expensive graduate program than the one you would have entered otherwise. Look before you leap! Will you be able to afford the extra time or expense? I don't know whether you're rich or poor, whether you're a first-time or a returning student, or whether you support your parents or they’ve been supporting you. These things constrain your field of choice.
Finally let's turn to God. You're getting impatient with His seeming silence. Why doesn't He direct you? Most people at your stage of life have an unrealistic view of God's direction. They're waiting for a voice in the ear, a tap on the shoulder, a dream, a sign, a special feeling. There is a reason these means of divine communication are called "extraordinary." God saves them for times when He needs to bonk someone on the head. Even then they must be tested to make sure that they really come from Him; most such experiences don't. As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, "Test everything." (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
What then is God's ordinary means of communicating His will? Scripture calls it Wisdom. "Wisdom is the principal thing," says the book of Proverbs; "therefore get Wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding" (4:7, KJV). How then do we get Wisdom? If we live in obedience to Him, following His ways and doing all the things we already know He wants us to do -- like trusting Him, talking with Him, studying His word, following His laws, thinking about His ways, worshipping with His people and showing compassion to those whom He puts on our path -- He gradually illuminates our thinking, sharpens our discernment, and deepens our understanding. That is getting Wisdom.
In short, God usually works through rather than aside from our deliberations, in our minds rather than apart from them. This is the privilege of having a rational soul. It's not for nothing that He commands us to love Him all our heart, soul, and strength and all our minds. Christ "takes every thought captive." This is part of the meaning of conversion, which lasts your whole life.
And as you have already discovered, it also tests our patience and our faith. The spiritual purpose of a test isn't to tell God about you –- He knows all about you already. It’s to reveal to you things He needs you to know about yourself.
So don't wait for the bonk on the head. He is guiding you already. Not with fireworks, not with special feelings, not with angelic visitations, but by His own methods, which are better.