Written by Theodora Lim, Singapore
Having to keep up with the rat race has fuelled my competitive streak for over a decade. As a student, I used to be very concerned about grades. After university, I went into my first job determined to climb the career ladder. I’d always had plans to go into leadership, and now, I’m heading a department that oversees operations and administration work.
Most of my professional life has been dedicated to gaining titles and getting into positions of power and influence. This was only reinforced with the onset of Covid-19. When working from home became the default arrangement, I decided to maximise the extra time I got by enrolling in online courses to upgrade my skills.
We live in a culture that teaches us to put ourselves first and do whatever it takes to get into our ideal course or dream job. The message is clear—we need to stand out, to constantly evolve because if we don’t, we will be left behind.
Yet all my striving came to a standstill last year when, in the middle of a leadership course, I started asking myself: Why was I doing all of this? Why was it that, after everything, instead of feeling accomplished and satisfied, I felt empty and drained?
Worth that comes from the One most worthy
By then, my walk with God had taken a backseat. I had not read the Bible or prayed, let alone attend church, for about seven years. Yet in the midst of my personal wilderness, God met me. I remember how I broke down one day by simply telling God I had enough. I had enough of the striving and the incessant need to appease others, of always wanting to prove that I was worthy.
God then led me to Isaiah 40, where He taught me that I needed to cast away my idols. He showed me how I felt unsatisfied and drained because I had based my worth on the applause of men.
Isaiah 40:22-23 says, “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.”
These verses showed me that only He is worthy, and only He is able to make me feel valued, regardless of my achievements or how good I am. My worth is not based on what I do or what others think of me, but only on what Jesus has done.
That encounter marked the beginning of my rededication and deepening of my relationship with Him. Even as I continue to face challenges, I now choose to stand firm on His Word, to remind myself of the truth whenever I feel the need to be valued: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26)
Re-aligning myself with God
Whenever I’m tempted to compare myself with others, or my thoughts tell me I’m not good enough, I would commit the matter to God. Going to Him brings me back to the truth that with God, there is no need to worry about being the best or remaining at the top. He is concerned not about how much we’re able to accomplish, but about the focus and end we’re working for.
Our purpose is not to garner wealth, influence or power, but to glorify God alone—not only through our words or by calling ourselves Christians, but through our actions. This means reflecting His love in how we relate to others.
This has reminded me to think of how I can encourage and support colleagues or clients who are facing difficult times. As a trained counsellor, I don’t only strive to be there for others just because it is my job. Rather, as a Christian, I can go a step further by being there for our clients and praying for them if they are agreeable to it. At the end of the day, it is God who gives me the wisdom and guidance to serve and love through the work I do.
It is not wrong to want to succeed in life, to aim to do our best. However, if our goal is to gain recognition and serve solely ourselves, then we need to check our hearts and ask ourselves—Who is our first love?
While this world looks towards the temporal things to satisfy, let us dare to be different. To not be afraid of “losing out” to the world, but instead, choose to set ourselves apart by looking to Him to fill our every need, to stand firm on His promises and remember His faithfulness in our lives.