Many of you who've read this blog know my story, and it's not a pretty one. I say this not to gain pity or sympathy - I request nor require either - but merely to state the facts. My life hasn't been easy at times, especially my teenage years and early twenties, and for a long time I lived in the after-effects of that, and that suffering had a big role to play in shaping who I am now.
That's what suffering does.
It changes us.
It shapes us.
I realise now a lot of the anger that has driven me in recent years in making many changes in my life, and indeed in my writing, has come from anger I felt at this and other things I lacked in my life, and a sense of feeling second best to everyone. That God was able to use that and redeem it is indeed a miracle - especially as I thought that anger was merely a 'righteous anger'. It shows that with God, everything truly is redeemable.
Now my problem is slightly different. It's a common known fact that as soon as things start to go really well, on a very subconscious level we can start to drift from God. I mean when things are bad its very easy both to blame God and/or turn to Him for help - its very natural to do that, its how things were meant to be all along. The thing is, we’re meant to rely on God as much when things are good, when things are easy, as we do when they’re at their worst.
But of course, we don’t. If we’re successful, we can easily start to take credit for it ourselves, think its all down to us, or at best shove God to the side a little - and of course when you do that you're just asking for trouble. It happens in scripture all the time , and a big clue to the consequences (and a good way to find it) is that not long after it usually says 'Yet again they [usually the Israelites] did evil in the eyes of the Lord' (If I had a tenner for every time it said that in scripture, I'd have a lot of money….).
I never wanted to be the kind of person who 'yet again did evil in the eyes of the Lord'. I mean every time I read that phrase I was thinking how dumb they were, and I was saying in my prayers how I would never do that.
But then I stopped and thought something.
I do ‘do evil in the eyes of the Lord’. Often. We all do. If had a tenner for every time I'D done evil in the eyes of the Lord, I'd be even richer than I would for the times in the Bible, that's the truth of it. Again, we all would.
We are just lucky enough to have Jesus and the cross to pay the price for all our mistakes, so God doesn't have to talk about all the time we do evil in His eyes.
Which brings me back to my point. When things are going well, it's really easy to get complacent. It's harder to motivate yourself. The anger that drives me now needs to be divine anger, anger at things which really matter, and if I'm not angry about issues that matter, issues that God is concerned about, then I should be. I should be driven by a deep desire to serve God, please Him and build His kingdom.
In ‘The War of Art’ Steven Pressfield says that many writers are afraid, but not of failure, but of success. If they are success then they have to live up to what they’ve written, they have to live a certain way, they can’t hide anymore. Their character will be exposed and under public examination. He’s right too, the media do this all the time with public figures, we’ve all seen it.
I don't want to get complacent. I don't want anything to divert me from my cause. God has put me here and kept me here for a reason, and I want to serve Him and build His kingdom in whatever way He's got planned for me. Whether things are good or bad in my own life, that's almost irrelevant.
God is what matters in the end. His kingdom, His glory. That all good things, anything good in my life, is from Him and belongs to Him.
I want to give Him glory and honour Him rightly when things are good, not just when things are difficult. Its must less natural to give God praise, honour and glory when things are good, especially in the culture we live in which is all about, well, us.
How counter-cultural and how much of a witness would it be if the first thing we do in the time of our greatest success was give credit where its really due - not in a false kind of way, to attract attention to ourselves. But to do it in a way which says that this isn’t about us, a way which sees all our achievements for what they really are - a correct stewarding of God’s gift to us, channelling what God has given us into serving His people and building His kingdom.
It’s so hard to do - and that’s why it’s so important.
What was your instinctive, first, gut reaction the last time you achieved something and were successful?
When was the real happiest moment of your life, and do you remember how you felt when that happened?
Was God anywhere in your reaction?
Why do you think you reacted like you did, and what can you change next time to make sure your reaction is honouring to God?