Those who pray for no more than they can handle will find joy and comfort in even modest achievements, for they will know and trust that God has given them what is for their best and withheld from them what would be to their harm.
I know many who long to make a mark in their field. I know writers who long to get that first contract and publish that first great novel. I know musicians who yearn to get noticed and get signed and get recorded. I know speakers who are convinced they could make their mark if only they could be invited to that first conference, deliver that first keynote, inspire that first audience. I know and admire many such people and often find myself rooting for them.
Yet even as I cheer them on from the sidelines of their lives, even as I attempt to encourage them as much as I’m able, there is one prayer I encourage them to pray amidst all their longing: “God, give me only as much success as I can handle.”
It has long been my observation that most people can handle failure better than success. If failure tends to spur innovation, success tends to breed stagnation. If failure tends to occasion humility, success tends to engender pride. If failure tends to stimulate dependence, success tends to generate self-reliance. I have seen people who seemed to be making great strides in godliness, great advances in upright and holy living, until they achieved success and gained acclaim. It was then that their progress seemed to screech to a near halt or even to reverse itself. When they gained the thing they had longed for, they lost the progress they had labored for. I have seen far more people ruined by success than by failure.
The reason is simple enough: Their success outpaced their sanctification. The level of their accomplishments rose faster than the growth of their character. Their vocational achievements came at the cost of spiritual achievements. They gained more success than they could handle and it led to great harm.