When it comes to success – to quote Jackie Gleason – “How sweet it is!” (I know, I’ve just dated myself!) We all love the feelings and adulations that accompany success. The warm glow of the success halo makes us feel good and valued. Even if a certain success genuinely humbles us, we still covet that feeling. It’s hard to feel good and grateful without also feeling proud. And perhaps some pride is good – it can be a great motivator.
Yet it is not without due cause that the Bible warns us in Proverbs 16:18 that “pride goes before the fall.” When the head swells with pride or sways with success, the halo of success quickly drops around our necks where it waits to hang us. As someone aptly said “A halo need only drop six inches to become a noose.”
Perhaps you have had some successes, and have many reasons for a healthy pride. Congratulations. But beware – with each success you raise the bar of expectations; and as expectations rise so does the potential for failure and disappointment. And you will, at some point in time, fail or come up short. Realize this does not need to be a tragedy – tremendous monuments have risen from the ashes of failure. But that’s another blog for another time.
My point is this: do not gloat in glory nor dwell in disappointment – do not over-celebrate success nor over-grieve failure. Instead, be grateful in both cases. In success, be grateful to God for allowing us the privilege; in failure, be thankful for His love which is not dependent on our success. The Heidelberg Catechism explains it this way when defining God’s providence (questions 27 & 28):
27 Q. What do you understand by the providence of God?
A. Providence is the almighty and ever present power of God by which he upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty – all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but from his fatherly hand.
28 Q. How does the knowledge of God’s creation and providence help us?
A. We can be patient when things go against us, thankful when things go well, and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing will separate us from his love. All creatures are so completely in his hand that without his will they can neither move nor be moved.
Perhaps that’s why Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice!” If we heed his divine advice, our haloes will never hang us!
(Halo picture from https://images.sharefaith.com/images/3/f0103406aa/img_mouseover3.jpg )