Photography © by Paul Johnson

I used to be Successful

It’s a story I’ve heard several times recently. I’m speaking with a guy, and in a reflective moment, he drops his head and speaks softly about how tough the past few years have been. He used to have more status, money, prestige, respect.

But not anymore.

Now life is full of struggle. It’s like his whole year has turned into one long Lenten season. Maybe he lost his job. His woman. His house. His self-respect.

His current salary is a fraction of what it once was. He has to work longer hours. His boss is a witch.

The details vary, but let’s face it – the last few years have been difficult for countless men. Women too, for sure – but let’s talk about the guys. How can a man adjust to a lower station in life, especially after having enjoyed past success?

Reset Goals –Transform Life

For Christians, and especially for men, it’s important to define the goal. Although we often act like it’s achieving the highest position, salary, influence, or whatever – it’s not. The real goal is faithfulness – to answer God’s unique calling for our lives, and to be faithful no matter what the external circumstances. It’s all about striving for holiness.

As scripture tells us repeatedly, we’re called to be not afraid – and place our hope in the Lord. Although each situation is obviously unique, following are a few thoughts on how tough times can be transformed into spiritual growth:

  1. Be HumbleRecall the parable in Luke chapter 14 where Jesus is speaking about guests who choose places of honor at the wedding banquet. He reminds us that “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and everyone who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11) In practical terms, this should encourage us to do the best we can in our new position (or in looking for the new position). It is also positions us better for future opportunities.
  2. Find New Purpose Money is not a good motivator. In fact, studies continue to suggest that beyond a certain point, money doesn’t really motivate us at all. There has to be more to it than that! We need to find that aspect of our work where we can truly add value given our unique skills – even if it’s something as simple as smiling at people when we just don’t feel like it. Any legitimate work can be done well, and thereby sanctified.
  3. Serve OthersConsider broader stakeholders in your life, and consider how they might actually benefit from your situation. Will you be able to spend more time at home with your wife and children? Are you a little less stressed out on a day-to-day basis? Can you go to Mass more often, and maybe bring a friend along? By focusing outside ourselves, we open up new possibilities to make a real difference – in ways that can have eternal consequences.
  4. Pray Like Crazy God is always calling us to deepen our prayer lives, and this is a great excuse. Pray about what it is God is calling you to do, how to use the gifts and talents he has given you, and consider this in a context that is broader than just your job. Then find someone else who needs prayers, and commit to praying for him or her. Offer up your ongoing difficulties for them (since we all have ongoing difficulties in one form or another), out of love for God and the Church.
  5. Hope In God’s Grace We have a tendency to project difficult circumstances into the indefinite future, and forget that God is also Lord of the future. By placing our trust in Him, we should be mindful that He is able to work in ways we can’t foresee, and His plans are so much better than ours. This enables the peace that surpasses all understanding to more readily flow into our hearts.

Many people have successful careers, only to realize (often too late) that the things they thought were so important really weren’t. Better for us to recognize this now, and put our energy first into faithfulness – which isn’t opposed to success at all. It simply seeks a much higher-value reward.

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Difficult Times

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