There’s a myth that the world would like you to believe—you and you alone are ultimately responsible for your own happiness. You have to love yourself first. You have to find fulfillment in your life. You have to live the American dream of freedom and prosperity. The “key to success” is finding love, happiness, wealth. And if you follow very calculated steps laid out for you in a million different self-help books, you’ll inevitably find fulfillment in something.
The truth is, that’s all a load of bull crap. (Sorry, sorry, I know. Language.) But it is. Fulfillment cannot be found in anything this world has to offer. There is no key to success. Sure, there are lots of good things that bring “success” by the world's standards. But in the light of reality, are those things truly “success”? That’s a hard word to define, I’ll admit. You can successfully meet a goal or achieve some award or eat a sandwich (though that last one can be kind of difficult sometimes). But success is a very subjective thing—what might be considered a success for one person might be a failure to someone else.
So how does the world define success? Health, wealth and prosperity. To our society, you’re successful if you have a high-ranking, high-paying job with a large house (or two), a happy family, an expensive car (or yacht, or both). To be successful, you have to have material things that display that. Things like a stable career, marriage, home life, finances. But you know the funny thing about life? There’s no certainty. And you know what’s even funnier? Material things don’t last. All that money you earn and all those things you buy with it won’t stick around forever. Or rather, you won’t stick around forever, and when you leave this earth, none of it is going with you. It doesn’t last and the pleasure you find in anything this world offers won’t sustain you.
Ultimately, fulfillment can come from nothing this world has to offer. There are certainly ways to plan for financial security, gain more confidence and find a better paying job. But those things never have and never will equal true success. It’s not about your bank account, it’s about your heart. And I’m sorry to say, your heart will never be satisfied by earthly things. Relationships, money, work, school, popularity, even yourself—none of those things can bring true joy. Those things have no saving power. Relationships can encourage and support you—but ultimately, people are broken creatures and they’ll let you down at some point. You will never even be able to find fulfillment in yourself.
So don’t base your idea of “success” on the world or its offerings. Base it on God and his offer of salvation and grace. A strong relationship with him is the only thing that can bring true, enduring joy. His version of success is far different from the worlds, but it also far better. It’s not founded on material things or social expectations, but rooted in growing us in sanctification. And while it may not be easy or necessarily fun, there is so much more freedom and joy that comes from following his will, his vision of success. Ultimately, our “success” isn’t in rooted in the world, but in our God who created it. It’s found in following his eternal plan of love and grace, not momentary pleasure. We are not bound by material things, but freed to live by a whole different set of standards that offers joy and peace and comfort and grace when we have nothing, when the world says we have failed. So maybe there really is a “key to success.” It’s not anything a self-help book will tell you to do, though. It’s the ability to look at all that you have and say “I don’t need any of it because I already have something so much better than all of it. I have God.” That is real, true, enduring success.