I was recently feeling discouraged and even ashamed of my lack of progress in the areas of career, income, and marriage. I received this encouragement from the Lord in my two-way journaling.
“You are successful. You are successful by My definition of success. You are loving Me and loving your neighbor and seeking My kingdom first, which is My definition of success. Because any kind of impressive activity or ability without love, even if it is spiritual, is an empty clanging gong and a noisy symbol–not successful. And everything that can be shaken will be shaken, and only what cannot be shaken will remain. My kingdom is what cannot be shaken. If you seek first the unshakeable, all the shakeable things you temporarily need will be added to you as well. (Matthew 22:37-39; 1 Corinthians 13:1; Matthew 6:33; Hebrews 12:26-28)
My darling, marriage, career, and income are all shakeable things, temporal things. Your culture tells you to measure your worth and identity—and how much more your success—by these things. I am not. I do not. I am telling you to measure your worth by the cross of Jesus Christ alone and your identity by My word to you and your success by how well and how much you are able to love. I would rather you do one small thing from love than ten thousand large and impressive things from ‘selfish ambition and vain conceit’ (Philippians 2:3 NIV). I told you to do NOTHING from selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility consider others better than yourselves. The world’s definition of success by definition pushes you up and others down: you are more successful than those who have less of a marriage, career, and income than you do. Or vice versa. But My definition of success is, how well do you love those others? That doesn’t push them down, it lifts them up! That is why the only thing I ever told My people to be competitive with each other about was how much they could honor each other! ‘Outdo one another in showing honor’ (Romans 12:10 ESV). Who can lift the other up more? That is the kind of competitive spirit I want you to have. That is how the kingdom of God works. ‘For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever’ (1 John 2:17-18 NKJV).
You have a choice: to do the will of the Father and last forever, or to lust after these things the world measures their worth by and lose it all. That latter choice is not what I want for you.”
The next day, I met a young woman who is now halfway through her twenties, and I had the privilege of hearing her story. The story of how five years ago she went to a third-world country to teach sign language to an orphanage full of children who couldn’t communicate. Now the children can still communicate today and their caretakers are still teaching the sign language to others—and my new friend has been paying for her few months among them ever since.
She told me how she almost died from the diseases she contracted there. How she has spent the last five years in her parents’ house, sometimes bedridden, often in severe pain, unable to work, having to even reteach her damaged brain how to read and write. How she watched all her friends go to college, find spouses, and start jobs and careers, while she could do none of those things. How now she is recovering and starting over, with nothing to “show” for these years of her life except the forgotten children who had been given voices.
“Did you ever reach a tipping point where it wasn’t worth it to you anymore?” I asked. “Did you ever get to the point where you said, ‘if I had known how much I would suffer and lose, I wouldn’t have gone?’”
“Never,” she said, without hesitation. “How could I ever say I wish those kids who can communicate now still couldn’t?”
Later, I felt like the Voice of the One I’d been listening to in my journal leaned in to whisper in My ear, “That is the epitome of My definition of a successful woman.”
It’s an honor when I get to meet one of Jesus’ heroes.
I wish you all success in the Upside-Down Kingdom of God.