One of my best friends is crazy talented – and it’s not just a friend bias. At the high school where she teaches, the student body voted her rookie teacher of the year. Administrators who observe her lessons marvel. Her students adore her. Her test scores are incredible.
Her walls are covered in gold medals from gymnastics. The collection continues to grow as she wins blue ribbons with her new hobby of horseback riding. She’s a gifted writer, always dressed to the nines, brave, fierce and strong.
And you know what I feel – jealousy.
For over a year and a half I’ve been recovering from extreme burnout – healing from a dream that turned out to be a complete nightmare. Instead of ribbons and accolades, the road has been filled with failure, tears and mourning.
Yet where my questions of purpose, success and reality collide, Scripture has proved a valuable teacher and the Holy Spirit a powerful companion.
I find such delight in reading Scripture’s rags-to-riches stories! Consider Daniel – one who endured the destruction of his homeland then a mandatory relocation to a foreign country. Yet God’s favor was with him (Daniel 9:20-23) and he rose to a position where he was second only to the king! Daniel’s actions even resulted in the king making a decree that all his subjects were to worship the God of Daniel (Daniel 6:26). Talk about success!
Yet the relationship between success and God’s favor doesn’t fit cleanly into an equation. Instead, Scripture’s stories can be bewildering as we expect God to bless with success yet find suffering. Consider Mary – the mother of Jesus. She submitted to God’s plan for her, but so many things seem to go awry. She is ridiculed for being pregnant and unmarried, forced to journey to Bethlehem while pregnant and then later having to flee because Herod wants to kill her son. Not likely what she expected in the center of God’s will.
Her legacy as well as many others is a stark reminder that God’s economy doesn’t often look like ours.
It’s a truth which the Holy Spirit has gently and repeatedly reminded me.
I am to hold success loosely on earth because it’s not God’s end goal.
One night my mind was filling with a list of accomplishments (none of which I had achieved) and the comparison game asked me to compete with their aces. Yet one clear thought questioned – “If I accomplished all these things, is it really for God or is it actually for me?”
We must not forget that God’s end goal is not our success, but our faithfulness. He is far less concerned with the lights, applause and titles than with our hearts. Yes, success can be good – but faithfulness is better.
So as life continues and the childhood skinned knees are later replaced by wounds of deeper magnitude – He remains. He is our example of faithfulness – our Faithful One. The One who is not shocked by our anger, impatience or careless words, but having seen our sin made a way (John 3:16). The One who remains faithful when we are faithless. The One who will finish the work He has started. The One whose love is not hampered by failure. The One who brings beauty for ashes.
True – the Faithful One does not guarantee success yet He promises purpose and infinitely more. Excitement and adventure lie just ahead as He calls “Join me…I have already prepared works for you to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
Psst…in case you didn’t know…
All the photography came from the incredibly talented Ashley Stone. Gosh – I am so glad I know this girl. Her fun and authentic spirit is infectious, her heart for the Lord beautiful and her talent obviously remarkable. In addition to photography, she makes all kinds of art including wedding signage, portraits, paintings and jewelry. You can follow her on Instagram or view her portfolio!