What this Author Has Learned About Success

Editor’s Note: This post is written by Emily Wierenga, author of several books, including the recently released Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (Baker Books).

Last year, I had a nervous breakdown.

It was the day after I realized my third book hadn’t sold much of anything at all, and all of my dreams of being a successful author drained, even as I miscarried the child I’d been carrying.

So I lost my baby and my dream in the same day.

I had no real control over either.

And as hard as it was, it was also the day I woke up and realized my heart was in the wrong place.

I cared too much about the wrong things. I’d fallen into the trap of thinking I was in control of my destiny, forgetting that “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it,” (Psalm 127:1).

This isn’t to say we can’t have momentary riches or fleeting glory here on earth. But our worth, our sense of purpose, cannot hinge on the world’s praise, or we’ll find ourselves where I was—crumpled at the foot of the cross, wondering how I’d lost sight of what mattered.

And that’s when I realized—I still doubted God wanted to bless me. I thought I had to force good things to happen. I thought God was on some sort of power trip—that all he cared about was appearing strong in the face of our weakness and suffering.

I remember the day when I was driving to a speaking engagement, trembling because I didn’t think anyone would show up to hear me talk, and hearing the Lord say, “Don’t you believe I want good things for you?”

I arrived to find the venue jam-packed, standing room only. I cried.

God wants good things for us friends. He’s not out to get us. But here’s the thing: God cares more about having a personal relationship with us than He does about using us.

Even if He has to spend our whole lives humbling us so we need Him, it’s not out of cruelty or selfishness, but rather, out of a desire for us to know true love and intimacy with Him. He doesn’t want us to find our worth in the world’s eyes because the world will always let us down.

Since that day, I’ve been learning that true success is not about being seen, or about having the right labels or the right job. It’s about this:

  1. Humility. Success is about treating others better than you treat yourself; it’s about seeing the person versus the mass; it’s about being small, and assuming the lowest position of service and waiting for the right time to be lifted up and recognized. Those who steal the show receive false glory.
  2. Integrity. Success is about doing the right thing, the hard thing, even if no one sees you do it. Because someone Higher and All-Powerful does see you, and he will reward you at the right time.
  3. Patience. Success is not about fast fame; it’s about slow and steady wins the race. We’ve lost the art of waiting.
  4. Honor. Success is about doing something well, and about the honor finding you. It’s about detail and beauty and respect and the fine wine that take ages to perfect; it’s about doing something people will talk about for centuries, versus days.
  5. Quiet. Success is about listening to what the rest of the world is too rushed to hear. The whispers of longing, of regret, of ache. Success is about hearing those whispers, and responding to them. One person at a time.

Our lives are not about us, friends. They’re about something so much bigger, so the question is—How can your particular, amazing story become a candle that leads others home?


Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, founder of the non-profit, The Lulu Tree, as well as the author of five books including the newly-released memoir Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (Baker Books). All proceeds from Atlas Girl will benefit The Lulu Tree. She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons. For more info, please visit www.emilywierenga.com. Find her on Twitter or Facebook.


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