When the Thrill of Success Wears Off

Written By Rylie Harrison, USA

From the first day I stepped into the classroom as a professional writing major, I was told that writing was the most satisfying career in the world. I would have the opportunity to share my thoughts, opinions, and experiences with hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people, and be paid for it!

My professor would describe to us wide-eyed freshmen the thrill and fulfillment that came with seeing your name in print for the first time. The more he talked about it, the more I wanted to feel that; to know deep down that I had accomplished something worthwhile. I wanted to revel in the glowing pride that would accompany handing my mom a copy of my first published work. So as soon as I could, I signed up to do a book review and got right to work.

Just a few short months later, my professor handed me a copy of the local newspaper. I could not believe it. There it was, my name in print, my first published book review.

I’d slaved over this review, making notes in the book, pointing out problems with the author’s argument, and looking up Bible references to see if they were being used correctly (many were not). I could hardly comprehend that all my hard work had paid off. Only a freshman in college, and I had been published.

And yet, something was missing. My excitement wore off like a sugar high and the crash left me with an odd emptiness. When I called my mom to tell her about it, she was ecstatic. But for some reason, I wasn’t. I didn’t know what to think. Wasn’t I supposed to be elated? Wasn’t I supposed to feel so full that I just had to do it again? Wasn’t I supposed to swell with pride that my words, my voice, were good enough for an editor to publish?

Maybe I just needed to do it again so it’d sink in and I would feel the way I was supposed to. So I signed up to review another book and got to work. I put the same effort into this review as I had put into the last one. I turned it in, and soon, it was published. Again, my heart soared as I held the newspaper in my hands. And again, my excitement faded quickly. What was the problem? I had put my heart into my work, but it kept coming back hollow. It wasn’t fulfilling me like I’d been told it would. It wasn’t enough.

As I tried to think through what could possibly be wrong, I started to wonder if I was in the wrong major. Was I really meant to be a writer? To think that I had it wrong terrified me. If not writing, then what?

I spent a lot of time in prayer, unsure about what to do next. In my search for comfort, I hoped the Bible would offer some kind of reassurance or guidance in its pages. Maybe God would tell me what I was supposed to do. And He did. But not in the way I expected.

I didn’t find any passages that convinced me I should be a writer, nor did I find any that pointed me toward a different path. Instead, as I searched for some kind of assurance or purpose, the Lord led me to Psalm 16, which is a beautiful psalm of David. I could not believe how absolutely overwhelmed with joy David was as he wrote about who God is. He makes staggering statements, like, “LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup . . .” (Psalm 16:5). David was fully satisfied in the Lord; his heart did not desire anything but to be close to God. He finishes the psalm by saying, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11). The pleasure of knowing God was enough for David. He did not need anything else to feel satisfied because he had all his heart desired.

I wanted that kind of satisfaction, the kind that was constant no matter what was going on around me. So I began reading the Bible with the specific intent of learning more about who God is. Everything I read, from the ministry of Jesus, to the teaching of the Apostles, pointed me to a loving, gracious God who created people to have a relationship with Him and sent His Son to make that possible. Though I had been a Christian for several years, I had never understood what it meant to know God and delight in Him the way one delights in a friend or family member. The more I learned, the more I grew in love and thankfulness toward God for all He had done for me.

Getting to know God better hasn’t meant a feeling of constant fulfillment—I still struggle with feelings of emptiness and futility. And I find myself tempted to chase other things, hoping that they might satisfy me. But those things keep turning up empty.

The more I learn and grow, the more I see my life in light of my relationship with God, and realize no field of work will be the thing that gives my life meaning. During college, I realized that my skills are better suited for editing instead of writing. And as I explored what that might look like, I felt a new-found freedom to pursue career-related passions with the expectation that ultimate fulfillment and joy are always found in relationship with God. As I reframe my thinking to fit with this reality, my search for fulfillment keeps bringing me back to the God who saved me. It is my hope that God will continue to bring me closer to Himself, training my eyes to be always on Him, teaching me that apart from Him, I have no good thing (Psalm 16:2).

 

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