Does God want me to be successful in my studies and chosen career?

The Oxford dictionary defines ‘success’ as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose OR the attainment of fame, wealth, or social status. Some become “successful” by accomplishing what they set out to do, or by attaining fame, wealth, and social status. Similarly, many people experience distress, discouragement and frustration as they feel they are not successful in their lives. No doubt, we live at a time and in a culture that measure our worth or significance by how ‘successful’ things appear to be. Moreover, we hear the prosperity gospel shouting aloud that says, ‘God wants you to be rich, prosperous and successful’. Yet, our common experience is that in their lives most Christians are not that ‘successful’ in the above sense. So, does God want us to be really successful? The answer will depend on how you define ‘success’. My scope here is to answer the question from a Catholic purview. It is true that essentially ‘success’ means accomplishing something we set out to do. The key is to set out to do what God wants us to do, even if it does not look much like success in the eyes of the world (Mk 8:36). The Scripture, especially Hebrews 11 throws light on what God defines as success: doing whatever God wants regardless of the cost. In other words, God’s idea of success is obedience by faith. Living by faith means believing the promises of God, even when we can’t see it. Obedience means living those promises out even when the consequences are less than desirable. A life of discipline is the key to a life of obedience. The life of Jesus reveals the truly disciplined Son of the Father (Jn 4: 34; Heb. 5: 8; Phil 2: 8). In the life of a Catholic, discipline is one of the fundamental components of success. Perseverance, tenacity, resistance to temptations and self-control are some of the vital aspects of discipline (Gal 5: 22-23). Those disciplined can continue to move on in the face of adversity and learn to push through difficult times and situations to accomplish their goals. Moreover, for a Jesus Youth, the study or the particular profession one chooses through discernment is a ‘vocation’, a means to sainthood. Those whom the Church considers as saints are not necessarily successful in the eyes of the world. Consider St. Mother Teresa’s statement about her ministry to the poor and dying in Calcutta: “God did not call me to be successful; he called me to be faithful.” For her, disciplined life was being faithful even in small things. Therefore, success is being faithful to what God has entrusted me to do – study, job, life commitment. Then one would hear the Master say: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful in small things, I will put you in charge of bigger things; enter into the joy of your master’ (Mt. 25: 23).

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Fr Bitaju Mathew, O.SS.T. belongs to the Order of the Most Holy Trinity and of the Captives (Trinitarians). He serves as the secretary Vice Provincial of the Order in India and is currently Chaplain of the Jesus Youth International Formation Team.