THE GOD OF SUCCESS DOESN’T GIVE ME A BREAK
I’ve just read your text “The Poet Is a Pretender”, and it feels as if it were written to me!
I’ve just finished renovating my shop. I intend to reopen it before starting the meetings with the Estação do Caminho da Graça in Recife.
The problem is that I’m starting over: In the previous 18 months I had many losses, and I’m struggling to re-build nearly from scratch.
I managed to complete the renovation and buy a few goods, but we ran out of money and I can’t get the goods we still need to reopen the shop and have profit.
In fact, we’re “open” since May 2005—in quotations because the store as it is (lacking goods) won’t “boom”. It’s not working... Then I start panicking again, wondering, “Will it go right? Will I make it?”
I’m run down, really exhausted. I wonder if I’ll be knocked out in the last round.
Then I read your text and began thinking that you’re right when you say that our roles are secondary to what we are in God. But I can’t soothe myself in that truth. Other concrete truths, like children, food, housekeeping, my professional fulfillment, take away my serenity and stop me from resting in Him.
Can you understand me from such a summarized report?
Please pray for me.
Hello, my friend from the meeting in Brasilia!
Reading your e-mail reminded me of a song by Jota Quest* that says:
We’re always waiting for better days
Days still to come, peaceful days
Days we won’t leave behind
Better days forever!
Have you ever realized we’re always waiting for something in order that we feel fulfilled and at rest in life?
Every day I meet a lot of people deceiving themselves with illusions like:
“When I find a nice boyfriend, then...”
“When I have my own place and leave my parents’, then...”
“When I get a job in my area, everything’s gonna change...”
“When I pay off this debt...”
“When I move to a different city...”
“When I finish building this house...”
“When I graduate... When I get married... When my children graduate... When I buy that cottage... When I retire...”
“...then I’ll really get a life, and I’ll do this, and I’ll do that...”
Every day, all the time, repeatedly, such kind of things spread themselves as a thin, underlying sheet of affliction over your daily activities, in a flagrant self-deceit that has the power to last for your entire life!
You sit through your life until you’ll live it out!
Then the Gospel comes and says—in its spirit—that none of that is required as a guarantee for the soul’s fulfillment. And it’s said clearly, but this generation refuses to hear. They hew out broken cisterns that can’t hold the Fountain of Living Waters.
Then Jesus comes and says that those who drink of that water will thirst again, but everyone who drinks of the water He offers will never thirst.
But no, we’re not interested. We’re children of the Prosperity Theology that impoverished the Christian soul, turned the disciples’ hearts into “beggars”, and cast the health of our spirituality “under the bridge”.
Jesus comes and announces one Kingdom with no other geography than that of the very heart’s depths. But we want the whole world; gaining our own soul doesn’t matter!
Jesus comes and proposes riches that touch our soul, but they don’t guarantee future stability in a country in crisis.
He projects hopes that gives life to the spirit, but they can’t provide us with a serene and prosperous old age.
He brings relief to the heavy laden, but “our daily bread” is still gotten by the sweat of our face.
I’m certain that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world, but one bill collector ringing the bell is worse than one thousand devils.
Jesus comes and frees our minds from the ghosts, the fears and the dread of the unknown, the unexplainable, the mysterious, the weird looking, the evil one, and even from God as a pagan idol. However, He apparently doesn’t “unshackle” any of us from the routine of continuous tensions and pressures so we can succeed in life.
It feels like either we don’t understand God or God doesn’t understand us!
Our God is the god of success; a success that is continuous and comes at any cost. No one rests in Him because no one trusts in Him.
As a result, we believe that our joy depends entirely on the circumstances and is based on concrete things—we build “concreteness” on concrete only; existential abstractness is outdated. Even the “church” looks down on other approaches, because we build up what we call “life” on what is “concrete”.
That is, we are unable to build anything before we can see the bricks! That’s when life becomes this thing that our life is: Get to it! Build up! Productivity! Concrete(ness)! Nonstop! More bricks!... And nothing gets more concrete than our indwelling insatiableness that has made us miserable since Babel.
And Babel still inhabits us as a syndrome: The higher, the better.
In the end, this is how we live: The one who gathers up more toys is the winner.
That explains our prayers for cell phones, cars, properties, tiles, roofs, farms, suits, titles, whatever...
Your feelings, dear sister, are archetypical; they’re the feelings of us all: “I can’t soothe myself in Truth ... The other concrete truths ... take away my serenity and stop me from resting in Him.”
The truth is that we don’t want Jesus—His Person, Absolute although abstract, since Christ dwells in us richly by Faith.
We don’t want the Gospel of Eternal Guarantees; the gospel of temporary guarantees is sufficient to us because they fit this life. And if they don’t guarantee us success, let Him, at least, prescribe us a 1,000,000mg painkiller so that it doesn’t hurt that badly!
To our generation, a “Painkiller God” is enough, as the very act of thinking of pain is painful.
Then everything is as it is in today’s Christian mindset:
The person who gets it wants to give a “testimony”: “I got it; God is with me!”
The person who doesn’t get it wants, at least, to say, “I didn’t get it, but it didn’t hurt! I fell down, but I felt no pain! Therefore, God is with me too! (Even though I’m not in the front row, OK?)”
In Christ, however it’s not so. He is “God with us”. He isn’t more of a God to the heroes of faith to whom He “has given the neck of their enemies” than to those who were tortured, shackled and stoned. He isn’t more of a God to the heroes of faith who stopped the mouths of lions than to those who were sawn in two or slain with the sword. To Him, there are no losers! All of them “obtained good report through faith” even though they “did not receive the promise”, as we read in Hebrews 11, because to Him, Faith is the most concrete of the abstractions.
Now it’s Saturday night. I happen to be home, and the kids are sound asleep, so I become thoughtful. That’s why I’m saying all this in general terms. But, regarding your personal situation, I’ll try to be more specific by adding the following.
Your insecurity about your work is normal. I have to deal with it too, and so does everybody who struggles for a living. I’ve caught myself lost in thoughts such as “Will it work? Will I make it? Will I be knocked out in the last round?”
Your problem is but one: The traumatic memory of a probable bankruptcy in the past. That memory can paralyze you through the fear of fighting and fighting, and being defeated in the end.
The fear of losing again hampers the way that leads to the soothing of your soul.
Fear is opposed to love. The assuredness that you’re loved to the last and the confidence-in-faith in the Father’s deepest, visceral love for you, will cause your fear to vanish, because nothing, ever, under no hypothesis, has the power to separate you from His sweet His HHjjjnsjeternal Presence. Nothing. Never.
Such frustrations are a part of the whole process of settling your business on the market, and they should lead you to make wise, prudent choices. Flee lethargy and the paralyzing fear, which, due to the trauma from the experience and the memory of the losses we discussed can dramatically affect a person who is trying to start all over again.
Everyone who uses their own initiative takes a risk. And the risk heals! We sweat, grin and bear it, have a bellyache, cry out in a whisper, and go ahead. We jump down. However, now you’re a woman who has undergone affliction. You’re not exempted from new mistakes, but you’ve learned from them, and such a learning enables you, now, to analyze, calculate, consider, ask for specialized advice, examine the family’s intuition, pray, meditate, and decide in a rational way.
From the day you—intimidated by the presence of so many pastors and experienced men, and their huge ecclesiastic backgrounds—asked Pastor Caio if you, as a woman, could start an Estação do Caminho da Graça in your city, everybody there realized they were looking at a dreaming, proactive young lady.
That’s why I know you will try again, and always. That is the impression you made on me ever since.
Your family knows better: You never give in.
Therefore, my sister, above all I wish you prosperity and health, just as your soul is prosperous already.
In the same Grace,
Marcelo Quintela is mentor of the Estação do Caminho da Graça in Santos, São Paulo.
From the original “O DEUS DO SUCESSO NÃO DÁ DESCANSO”
Translated by F. R. Castelo Branco :: July 2007
*Jota Quest is a Brazilian pop-rock group. (Translator’s note)