Our world seems to glorify success … something deep in the psyche of the human mind runs a deep desire to associate with power, control, and success. I am sure many of you will identify with me as I often find myself really wanting to be successful by the world’s standards and struggling when I am not. We praise and desire or boast about beauty, intelligence, academic achievements or career success, being talented, family/lineage, heritage, power, wealth, etc. We always talk about climbing UP the ladder of success in life. We feel “blessed” or favored by God when we get or achieve many of these things. Have you seen the #blessed on twitter or Facebook? It is claimed when someone has gained one of these desires and it usually comes slathered with pride! The flip side is that we often tend to feel like God has turned His face away from us when we walk through darker valleys and seasons of pain, suffering or loneliness especially when they occur for prolonged periods of our lives.
I have been trying to understand who Jesus really is through the depth of His life and sacrifice for us in just thirty-three years of His life on earth. I was reading Isaiah 53 and it hit me afresh that Jesus ran counter to everything we would consider successful. Listen to the prophecy about Him:
He had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
And no beauty that we should desire him
… He was despised and rejected by men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And as one from whom men hide their faces
He was despised, and we esteemed him not.
… We esteemed him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
He was pierced for our transgressions;
He was crushed for our iniquities;
… The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and He was afflicted,
… Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter
… By oppression and judgment he was taken away
… Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
He has put him to grief;
Not a pretty picture of success there at all. Why? Why did the King of kings and Lord of Lords choose to come to earth this way when our human wisdom tells us that we need to desire and be “successful”? He was born to a poor family, in a manger because there was no room for Him at the inn. His life was in danger as Herod sought to kill him. He lived an obscure life for thirty years as a carpenter. He had no home and depended on the kindness of others as He served God in obedience during His three years of ministry. He was despised to the point of death, and was buried in a borrowed tomb. Why in the world would a God who has the power and glory of heaven and earth, the Creator of the universe, the One whom angels bowed down to as described in Isaiah 6, come to this earth and become sin and suffering?
Just imagine that! I honestly cannot fathom why God chose to do that! God chose to step into the brokenness of our world and of our lives, and humble Himself to the point of death, due to His great love for us (Phil 2:5-11). And this passage says that we are to “have this mind” among ourselves.
Thus it comes as no surprise that God called my husband and me eighteen years ago to step into the life of two very broken, hurt, rejected children. We were called to adopt our traumatized six year old son and baby daughter against the tide of culture, family and popular opinion. It required us, and me in particular as their adoptive mom, to lay down my life and my plans that I had worked so hard for, to enter their brokenness, pain and suffering. This long journey has been very costly to me – I lost myself in the process as I needed to immerse myself in helping them find their footing in life. However, even though my sacrifices were made willingly in love in the beginning, as the years passed the pain often became more than I could bear. God called me to trust in His goodness without seeing any tangible results, and often my weary heart began questioning Him, even rebelling. And, in the midst of millions of tears, I prayed and begged God to give me parenting success. This passage shows me even now, how far from Jesus I truly am. He had the power to be in control and to ease His pain, yet, He chose to empty Himself to enter our world, with one purpose – to die on that cross for you and me, to enter our brokenness and to take it willingly on Himself so that we can have eternal hope, peace and joy! God lovingly through His Word showed me my foolishness and sinfulness for so desperately desiring success the world’s way instead of God’s way. May God forgive my faithlessness, for although I call myself His follower, I do not want to carry my cross and follow Him instead I want comfort, ease, praise and glory. He joyfully and purposefully chose to go counter to the world and climbed down the ladder from heaven to earth, from everything to nothing, from perfect peace, love and comfort to horrible brokenness and suffering. True success is imitating Jesus!
So, the next time we are tempted to be proud of our worldly successes under the guise of #blessed, let’s remember that we are on the dangerous grounds of idolatry for this is NOT success God’s way. Let us ask Jesus to show us how we can joyfully follow in His footsteps to willingly and sacrificially step down to love and care for those around us who are suffering and sorrowful, going counter to our intuition and to the world around us for that IS success God’s way!
Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).
So too may Jesus’ name be exalted through our lives!