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  • Writer's pictureKevin Anselmo

If Career Success Is “God’s Blessing”, Is Failure God’s Curse?

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

By Kevin Anselmo

A few months ago, I was feeling down about my start-up project, Global Innovators Academy. People who had previously gone through my educational program seemed to love it, yet I was struggling to generate more sales. That week, I had a conversation with a friend.

This person shared with me how he had made Christ the center of his company and as a result, he had been ‘blessed’ with a significant uptick in business this year compared to the past year. I have heard similar refrains throughout my life.

“Great,” I thought to myself. “So God has ‘blessed’ this person with success. Is God cursing me because my project isn’t going according to plan?”

Perhaps you have wondered about this too if you are going through or have previously experienced a career disappointment. After much thought, I can say unequivocally that the answer to the last question is no!

I would add: PLEASE NEVER SAY YOUR CAREER SUCCESS (OR ANY SUCCESS FOR THAT MATTER) IS “GOD BLESSING YOU”! Eliminate that dreadful hashtag many use to humbly brag on social media: #SoBlessed! Below are four reasons why, with accompanying ideas on how we might think differently about God and career disappointments.

1. We have misconstrued the definition of blessing.

To begin with, what does blessing mean? Is it, as many of the social media humble brag posts suggest, a nice little prize from God as the result of our marvelous wonders? You will surely find many out there who claim that this is indeed what a blessing entails (perhaps expressed a tad more eloquently than the previous sentence).

Vaneetha Rendall Risner wrote a terrific piece for the Desiring God blog, noting that the word blessing comes up 112 times in the New Testament, none of which connect the term to prosperity.

Indeed, the most famous reference ever to the word blessed are the Beatitudes preached by Jesus Christ along the Sea of Galilee. Those who are blessed, according to Jesus, are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted because of righteousness. The second reference to each blessing has a spiritual reward - like blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy; or blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Jesus could have said they will get job promotions, accumulate great material wealth and gain professional fame for living out some of these principles. But he didn’t, because in my opinion, it is not what a blessing entails.

"Scripture shows that blessing is anything God gives that makes us fully satisfied in him," writes Rendall Risner in the aforementioned article. "Anything that draws us closer to Jesus. Anything that helps us relinquish the temporal and hold on more tightly to the eternal. And often it is the struggles and trials, the aching disappointments and the unfulfilled longings that best enable us to do that."

The books of the Christian New Testament are widely agreed to have originally been written in Greek. The Greek word for blessing is makarioi which means to be fully satisfied. It refers to those receiving God’s favor, regardless of the circumstances.

Even the almighty modern answer to all our questions - Google - reinforces this definition, noting that “blessed” as an adjective is being “made holy; consecrated.” The noun form is “those who live in heaven with God.”

One could argue that it is to some extent blasphemous to hijack God’s blessings to make it fit our own career success agendas. I don’t want to sound self-righteous about this, but I think this could indeed be the case. The gospel of Christ is about getting something - salvation and ultimate spiritual connection, the ultimate blessing - through faith and grace. This is quite different from insinuating our actions lead to career resume boosters.

2. You are not God!

There is a terrific scene from the movie Rudy that illustrates this point perfectly. Rudy is despondent as his dream of being a walk on football player at the University of Notre Dame isn’t going to plan. Rudy wonders if he hasn’t been praying fervently enough and asks Father John Cavanaugh if there is anything else that he can do. Father Cavanaugh responds: “Son, in 35 years of religious studies, I have come up with two hard, inconvertible facts. There is a God and I am not Him.”

This sentiment aligns with the Bible. I Corinthians 2:11 says: “For who among men knows the thoughts of man except his own spirit within him? So too, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”

Why then do so many wish to “play God” when explaining their rationale for career success or failures?

I myself have fallen victim to this at previous times of my life. It is easy to do so as innocuously so many, especially those that give the appearance of being very fervent in their faith, share God’s thinking with others in everyday conversation. (The last sentence is rather ironic in itself. Does God, the ultimate being, actually think in the same way a human does? My guess - I think not!).

The digital age has made all of us more prone to being prognosticators. There are millions of people who previously had no idea what a pandemic was and then miraculously, almost overnight, became “experts” on how to stop the spread of COVID-19. Go to your Facebook feed and there is a good chance you will see such “thoughtful” analysis!

We don’t have to be subject matter experts on every topic, especially when it comes to interpreting the will of God. As Father Cavanuagh demonstrated, there is great conviction and truth to saying “I don’t know.” Likewise, don’t pretend to attribute your successes to God’s blessings.

3. If abundance is God’s blessing, then why do many horrible people have so much? By many accounts, Osama Bin Laden, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was a wealthy man. This Forbes article notes that he was the heir to a Saudi billionaire. Osama had a fortune widely estimated at $300 million.

Many consider Vladimir Putin to be a not so nice guy. His net wealth is a mystery; some wonder if he is actually the wealthiest person alive today.

These are two of many examples of individuals who accumulated great wealth, but who don’t necessarily seem to be “good people”. Which begs the question - if whatever career success you accumulated is due to God’s blessing you, why are also these bad people being blessed as well?

4. It could be offensive to others.

Think about this example. There are two people who climbed up a mountain. An avalanche occurs and these two individuals go missing. Eventually, one person is found to have survived, while the other perishes.

The family of the survivor is jubilant and thanks God for the blessing of protection. The grieving family of the victim watches in another room. How do you think they feel? What are they thinking about the surviving family members’ words? What questions are they asking of God? How could a just God bless one person with protection and not the other person? I would say with certainty that the words used by the surviving family are offensive. I would also argue that their analysis is not necessarily true, because as previously covered, nobody knows God’s specific intentions.

Life vs. death and career success vs. failure are obviously two separate matters. But safe to say that there are many people who might be asking similar types of questions of God when they hear one successful person attributing their new promotion to God’s blessing while the other person at the same time is wrestling with the reality of being fired unjustly from a job.

Thinking differently about blessings and career disappointments

I should mention that wishing God’s blessing on a couple at their wedding or to share this phrase to a grieving family is a completely different usage and application. If shared sincerely, it is probably encouraging and helpful and in my opinion aligns to the intended Christian principle of God’s blessing. There are other scenarios that would probably be appropriate as well.

I mainly wrote this article in part to spread the message that we need to rethink the application of God's blessings in our life. At the same time, I also hope that the above perspectives might help you think differently about any career disappointment vis-a-vis your relationship to God.

Maybe whatever career disappointment you are encountering is a temporary valley. Perhaps one scenario is that you will come out on the other side and achieve the goal and learn a whole lot in the process. Terrific! This happened in the movie Rudy; it works great for Hollywood! Or maybe the other scenario is that your career aspiration won’t ever come to fruition. There is a different path you are intended to go down.

Whatever happens, may you realize that the real blessings emanating from Christ’s sacrificial love have nothing with whatever scenario occurs. We all have the opportunity to experience Christ’s actual blessings, whether we are millionaires reaping the joys of career success or unemployed and grappling with career disappointments.

As with most of all of the content that will be published on this blog, I write this for others as much as I write this for myself. For me, this truth helps me to be content while also motivated as I try to make the most of my years on earth and make a difference - whether big or small - in my career. I pray that you experience the same.

Feel free to email me your thoughts: kevin.anselmo (at) Learn more about my book Reframing Career Success.

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