Monday, 17 October 2016

What constitutes success? By Claire Musters

We are at a crossroads in our daughter’s life: filling in her secondary school choice form with her. Yikes. As we have grammar schools in our area the competition for spaces is immense, with hundreds of pupils coming from out of borough to sit the test – and literally thousands taking it, even though there are limited spaces. With a birth boom in our daughter’s year, we already know there aren’t enough school place. We seem to live in a ‘black hole’ too, as we are out of the catchment area of schools – even those that we can walk to! So this first half term has been all about tests, musical auditions and open evenings for our daughter. Bless her – she has coped with the pressure so so well.

We have felt the need to push each possible door that she has been happy to, but it means she has been tested and measured against so many others constantly. We keep reminding her that it isn’t a matter of failing if she doesn’t pass one or more of these evaluations. She is someone who puts in a lot of effort; we know she will have tried her best. We also know God has the right place for her. So we can trust Him in all the craziness that we are in the midst of.

Alongside that journey, I have also had an update on my own journey with my WIP. After almost two years, and a lot of constructive feedback, I have finally had the door shut on the publisher I was communicating with. Not because the idea isn’t good – but because I don’t have a big enough speaking profile. It is hard, when I write books and articles for a living, to be struggling to place my own idea.

I have had a lot of positive comments from other publishers – and have sat myself down and reminded myself that I should be encouraged that every publisher I have approached has liked the idea. I have wrestled with frustration, because I know that publishers have to ensure they can make their money back, so they are looking for authors with ‘successful’ profiles.

Yes I get disheartened at times, and the process has gone on so long I can feel disconnected from the whole book idea at times, but, when I do go back and read the chapters I’ve already written, I get all fired up again – I KNOW it is something I need to do. Even last week I had such encouragement when a friend read the chapters and God really spoke to her about her own life, so we spent time sharing and praying together. So, while I may not be ‘successful’ enough for some publishers, I am pressing on.

It feels like both my daughter and I have been under scrutiny by others a lot recently, and it has made me reflect on what actually constitutes success. Our society holds up celebrity as a form of success, and there are so many reality shows because of people’s desire for fame. As writers, we can measure our success by what we get published, whether we are able to earn money from our writing, whether we are able to write the number of words we had hoped to in a day – there are all sorts of ways we continually measure our success.

However I just want us to reflect on the standard set by God for success. When asked what was most important, Jesus said: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37–39).

This is a life-long adventure – to know and be known by God, to love Him with all of ourselves (offering up every part of ourselves to Him takes us time doesn’t it?!), and to learn to love and reach out to others with that love He has shown us.

Everything we do – our writing, yes, but also our lives in general, should be offered up to Him daily. Whether we have ‘success’ in the world’s eyes is nothing compared to the wonder of knowing our heavenly Father is cheering us on and is delighted in us. Taking a moment to meditate on that truth each day certainly puts things into perspective. I – you – wear the robes of righteousness Jesus won for us; we are sons and daughters of the King that rules the universe – that’s all the ‘success’ we truly need…

Claire is a freelance writer, editor and speaker, mum to two gorgeous young children, pastor’s wife, worship leader and school governor. Claire’s desire is to help others draw closer to God through her writing, which focuses on authenticity, marriage, parenting, worship, discipleship, issues facing women today etc. Her books include Taking your Spiritual Pulse, CWR’s Insight Into Managing Conflict, Insight Into Self-acceptance and Cover to Cover: David A man after God’s own heart as well as BRF Foundations21 study guides on Prayer and Jesus. She also writes a regular column for Christian Today as well as Bible study notes. She is currently working on another co-written book, Insight Into Burnout, as well as her own book Taking off the mask: learning to live authentically. To find out more about her, please visit and @CMusters on Twitter.


  1. Thanks for this reminder Claire. As a writer I am always comparing myself to others, however that is not necessary. God loves us just the way we are. I needed this

    1. Me too! God is teaching me a lot through the journeys we have been on as a family this half term. It isn't always easy - but it is because of His love and care :) He loves us so much xx

  2. Great blog. Kingdom success is what you reminded me of. Of all the rejection here, what we do in fathfulness every day is written in heaven. Building for eternity with godly character that is true, sure and steady in the small details. God bless you. Xx

  3. We need to focus on who defines success. If we seek to please God, then that's true success in His eyes.

  4. Wise words. Thank you, Claire

  5. So hoping your daughter gets into a school where 'success' is not emphasised too much. Always remember that testing at 11+ for grammar schools is not a measure of a person's ability in life. Living in an area where academic prowess and therefore academic education is prized above all else, we see that this doesn't necessarily lead to a fulfilled and happy life, short or long term. The best place to be for a senior school is where she is going to be valued and encouraged and can make good friends. So, hoping this happens, whatever the kind of school. Keep praying!