Deep gladness and deep hunger

I don’t typically use these kinds of diagrams, but I think this one, adapted from a similar chart I picked up in some recent reading, and linked to that famous vocation statement by Frederick Buechner, helps us think through some of the issues around calling.


The vertical axis is internally focussed: it represents our sense of gladness/joy/fulfilment in doing something; the horizontal axis focusses externally and measures the extent to which we are making a significant difference to other people.

Here is what is happening in each of the quadrants:

  1. Lower left quadrant: sense of fulfilment is low and what we do makes little difference to other people. I’ve called this a ‘job’: which should not suggest that all jobs are low in fulfilment and usefulness, but rather that there are certain mundane tasks that seem to lack significance and bring little sense of fulfilment.
  2. Lower right quadrant: where fulfilment is still low but significant needs are being met. Think of this as duty. Not that doing duty is bad, but some things are done merely as duty and bring little sense of fulfilment.
  3. Upper left quadrant: fulfilment is high, but there is little external usefulness in the task. Someone might enjoy playing the piano alone in an empty concert hall. This is a hobby.
  4. Upper right quadrant – both internal fulfilment and external usefulness are high.

Here is what Buechner said:

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.

The two axes are important. The horizontal is a vital counterbalance to the vertical, as without it, we are in danger of being merely self-indulgent and living lives in which the thing that matters is self-fulfilment. On the other hand the value of the vertical line is the extent to which it helps point us in the direction of understanding how we have been gifted. If our gifting is the way in which God has equipped us to serve others, then it’s useful for us to know how we have been gifted. While it is not always possible to build your life exclusively around your area of gifting, both Scripture and psychology seem to point us in the direction of using our strengths.

What do you think? Does the chart represent a helpful way to view what we do? Is it legitimate to expect that we will find a sense of fulfilment when we exercise our gifts? Does the old Chariots of Fire ‘When I run I feel his pleasure’ idea come into play (even though it may have been an invention of the filmmaker)? It probably ties closely with the psychological idea of ‘flow’, but what specific biblical support would you point to to support the idea? Presumably we will thrive when we do what God has created us to do.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.