Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good. It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones. Psalm 127:1-2
Since I was in grade school, I have been driven to succeed to a standard I set for myself. When we played kick ball at recess I wouldn’t feel like I had succeeded unless I had kicked the ball over the roof of the school, which was an automatic home run until I did it so many times that the teacher to make it an automatic out. In high school I needed to get A’s in honor classes to feel successful. And when I was ranked 21st out of 660 graduating seniors in high school, I felt like a failure. In college, I needed to have the highest score on every test and set the curve in every class. When that did not happen, I had failed in my mind.
Deep down in my heart I knew there was something wrong with my drive to succeed. But what was it? How was it wrong? Gradually I began to realize that success is not so much in what I do, but in who I am. I could be first in the class, but it still didn’t feel right if I had not enjoyed the class, made friends along the way, and had grown closer to God with an increased self-awareness. This first hit me in high school when I decided that I would pursue theology rather than medicine in college. This is when my journey began in earnest to allow God to be the master builder of my life. When I allow Him to build my house, success is defined by Him as I remain in Him.
Knowing that He is the Builder of my house is comforting indeed, but I still struggle with wanting to help Him or take over His job completely. And I don’t think I’m the only one to struggle with this issue. The truth is that many, if not most of us struggle with it to one degree or another. It is so easy to accept a measurement of success for ourselves that is not from God. We see in others strengths, talents, and gifts that we do not possess, and become tempted to feel inadequate, if not like total failures. When this happens, we start building again on our own.
There are two major reasons we do this in my experience. The first is that we have never taken the time to listen to Jesus and know His plans for us. We feel dissatisfied with life at some level and decide we need a new car or location or job or something other than what we have in order to be happy and successful. But every decision we make apart from Jesus is a brick we have laid in our house rather than Jesus. The more we take over His job, the more dissatisfied we will be.
The second reason we build our life on our on own without Jesus is that we don’t trust His plan. In this instance, we know His plans. We understand what He is building in us. But we aren’t happy with it. Life isn’t going the way we want. And so we fire Jesus as our master builder, though we still want Him to be our Savior. We still expect to live in the house He is building right now for us in heaven. It’s just that we don’t like the house He is building for us to live in right now on earth. But if we don’t like His house plans for us on earth, why would we think we’d be happy with His house plans for us in heaven?
And so I find that real peace and contentment comes as I submit to God’s will and allow Jesus to build my house. He then defines success, which is measured by His standard, not mine. So when I am tempted to feel inadequate because others have more influence, more earthly treasures, and more talent, I am learning to simply thank God for Jesus. When I listen to Jesus, seek His will, and keep my focus on Him, then the worldly measurements of success have no power or influence in my life. I am thankful for my master builder.