Written By Timothy Lee, Taiwan, originally in Simplified Chinese
Many people believe that in order to achieve success, one needs a head start in life–you need to be ahead right at the starting line. What this means is that your chance of “success” is determined by your family background. If you come from a privileged background, you have a higher chance of success in life.
I come from a complicated family background. My father was a third-generation gangster, and my mother was a drug addict. My parents brought me into the world while they were still very young and soon after I was born, they gave me up for adoption.
My mother’s use of drugs throughout her pregnancy caused me to suffer many health problems since birth, including an inflamed kidney when I was just one year old. Because of that, I spent a lot of time in the hospital.
At this point, you would probably be thinking that this child was fated to a life of tragedy, but by God’s grace, a miracle happened to me. A Christian family who learned of my situation decided to adopt me, giving this weak and sick child from a complex background a chance to enjoy a normal childhood.
Starting At a Disadvantage
And so, I began my race in this life. But I quickly realized that the “starting line” was not at the point of my birth, but when I was still in my mother’s womb. While the new environment helped in terms of my personal growth, it couldn’t alleviate my health problems. From a young age, I needed to rely on the regular use of steroids to manage my recurrent kidney illness.
Furthermore, I was a hyper-active child, often running around and getting into trouble. Even though my family spent a lot of time and money to help me, I could never sit still nor did I enjoy studying. This frustrated the adults in my family. No one had high hopes for my future.
The Turning Point
When I was 13, I suffered another bout of problems with my kidney, and this time I was in the worst condition I had ever been in. My belly was swollen, and I was unable to pass urine. On top of that, my body was continually losing protein. Even after a month into my stint in the hospital, doctors were still unable to find a cure and could only manage my illness by increasing the dosage of my steroid intake. And because of my severe loss of protein, I needed to undergo IV treatment to maintain the level of protein within my body.
Just when it seemed that my situation was utterly hopeless, my family brought the pastor of our church to pray for me. The next day, I began to recover miraculously. I was able to pass urine naturally, and within a week, I was able to leave the hospital.
During a follow-up appointment two years later, I was informed by the doctor that I no longer needed to take steroids, and that the risk of relapse was very low. The doctors never found the reason for my sudden and speedy recovery, but I do remember a nurse saying to me at the time, “Your God has saved you!”
God’s plan is different for everyone; not everyone will go through such dramatic experiences. But this experience became a turning point in my life. From that day on, I was transformed. I started to devote myself to prayer, studying the Bible, and attending church. I also tried to work on my character, leaving behind the rashness of my earlier days. Not long afterwards, I was baptized as a Christian, and started serving in church. God said to me that my life is His, and since He has redeemed me, I should be serving Him.
When I was 19, I was admitted into a good university in Hong Kong, and even served as chair of the student council. Though as a child I had been looked down upon, now I was seen as a good student and role model. This transformation was completely God’s work.
Even though these achievements have given me a better standing in the eyes of the world, to me, the most important measure of success is not in gaining admiration from men, but in belonging to God’s kingdom—being affirmed by God as His child and being sustained by His unfailing love.
Finishing the Race Well
I was someone with no hope for the future, simply surviving by virtue of the strong medication I’d been taking. And yet, God not only gave me a family who was willing to take care of me, healed me both physically and spiritually, but He also gave me wisdom and favor in the eyes of men. The changes in my life testify to the goodness of the God we read about in the Bible.
Friends, perhaps you are currently weighed down by your circumstances: Why am I worse off than others in so many aspects? Why was I not born with a silver spoon in my mouth? How can I be anything in life, having started with a disadvantage?
As I was growing up, these were complaints that I often had. And yet, there is a passage in the Bible that still moves me and reminds me not to complain about my circumstances:
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)
Every time I read this verse, my heart is filled with gratitude—I was once considered “lowly” by the world’s standards, but God has redeemed my life by His grace. Even from my mother’s womb, God preserved my life, and has a plan and purpose for me.
So, when we rely on God, even though we may start at a disadvantage, we can still finish the race well. It doesn’t mean that we won’t have struggles throughout our lives. But if your life, like mine, was filled with brokenness from the start and you do not wish to fall into a whirlpool of tragedy, I have great news for you—God can redeem your life and fill it with His hope.
If this is your heart’s desire, I invite you to pray this prayer:
I confess that I cannot completely control my life. I am unable to change things like my family background. But I know that You are the God who is able to redeem all things.
Therefore, I willingly accept you as the Lord of my life! Allow me to experience the change that comes from believing and trusting in You. I believe that You can lead me on a different path, because you are the Creator God who truly gives meaning to my life.
Please help me, so that I do not lose myself in the world’s definition of success and the hope of approval from others. Let my life be immeasurably valuable and meaningful because of my fellowship with You. Amen!