Save Me from my Successes

Written by Bill Strom

A few weeks ago I was flipping through the New Year’s edition of a popular sports magazine and came across a list of famous athletes and coaches who died in 2010. Even if one isn’t a big sports fan, it would be hard not to recognize names such as John Wooden, George Steinbrenner, Don Meredith, and Manute Bol. Most of the deceased were mature in years and died of natural causes.
Yet other young personalities passed away under more grievous conditions. Some fell to heart attack—an irony among people committed to excellent physical conditioning. Yet MLB pitcher Jose Lima, NBA guard Quintin Dailey (49), and NFL defenseman Gaines Adams (26) died when their hearts gave out.
Still others took their lives when life’s problems seemed insurmountable. NBA player Mel Turpin (49), sprinter Antonio Pettigrew (42), and boxer Edwin Valero (28) did so. Most sobering was seeing that LPGA golfer Erica Glasberg (25) had once been named NCAA freshman of the year in college, and was twice All-American took her own life. The article said she “struggled to adapt to life on the LPGA tour.”
What many of us would give to be Freshman of the Year in any sport, or All-American even once. And yet success can breed expectations for ourselves, and from others, which, if we don’t live up to, might lead us to think we are less than we should be.
But it’s more than just expectations. Success can also bring wealth, and with wealth may come the burden of privilege and entitlement. When life doesn’t continue to deliver in spades, we can become anxious, or worse, embittered.
My sense is that our successes can lead us to place our skills and smarts and achievements above God so we begin to trust ourselves more and Him less.
The prophet Isaiah may have had this in mind when he warned the Israelites not to run to or depend on the wealth and technology of the Egyptians, their neighbors to the south. He wrote:
“Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD.” (Isaiah 31:1-3)
Whether someone else’s horses or chariots, or our own accomplishments and success, the warning still holds. God save us from our successes.

Share This

Share this post with your friends!