My Christian Awakening: Fame and Gain Are Not the Key to Happiness
Fame and gain are goals that many people chase after their whole lives even though many of us have personally witnessed the plights of others as they endure pain and suffering in a bitter struggle for fame and gain. However, few are ever able to break free from the shackles of a never-ending pursuit of fame and gain. In the pursuit of fame and gain, some people turn against their own families, and some are even driven to kill. Others pursue them at the cost of their health, becoming stricken with illnesses and disease even at the height of their youth. Then there are still others who, in this pursuit, turn to a life of crime. Many of us cannot help but turn within and ask ourselves: “What is the most meaningful thing we should pursue in life? Can chasing after fame and gain really be the ticket to happiness?” To help shed light on these questions, May—who once devoted all her energy in just such a struggle—is here to share her story with us …
“May, have you really decided to quit?”
“Yes, I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to the United States to get my master’s degree. You know how things work around here. Nobody ever gets ahead at this company unless they have an advanced degree,” I unflinchingly replied to my colleague.
When I graduated from college, I remember all I could think about were ways to get ahead of the pack and make something of myself. One day, I told myself, I’d drive a fancy car and live in a big mansion. The company I started working at, however, refused to hire anyone for an executive position unless they had an MBA or PhD, relegating me to start at the bottom as an entry-level employee. “People struggle to go upward, but water flows downward,” I told myself. To get a chance at a promotion, I often stayed behind after work by myself in the company library; I read every single report from previous projects. I became an unabashed workaholic. On more than one occasion, I exhausted myself to the point that I felt a pain in my chest and had difficulty breathing. This eventually culminated in a full-blown asthma attack. Again and again, I brushed it off. “No pain, no gain,” I kept telling myself. After several years of hard work, I finally caught my boss’ attention, only to be blindsided when another woman who had joined the company long after me and was less skilled at her job—but who had a higher degree—was instead promoted to supervisor. This left me feeling completely slighted and discontent. So, with my sights set on acquiring fame and gain, I decided to quit my job and leave for the United States to pursue an advanced degree.
A few years later, I received my master’s degree and returned to Taiwan to continue my climb up the corporate ladder. Before long, I held a senior position in my company and was paid a very high salary. I lived in a big house, splurged on hot spring resorts, and my friends and family all applauded me for my accomplishments. You could say I had it all—fame and gain. However, I still wasn’t satisfied with my life. I felt like I was completely surrounded by wildly successful entrepreneurs and investors, and I yearned to be on their level. The idea of becoming an entrepreneur soon became unshakable. To turn my dream into a reality, I continued working while also making real estate deals on the side. Before long, I had taken out mortgages to buy several rental properties. In the meantime, I was also taking classes on investing and financial management. First, I started with forex trading, then quickly moved on to mutual funds. Later, I learned how to invest in equities, futures, and options. I watched some of my friends try their hand at the stock market and make tens of thousands overnight—some even became millionaires in just a few years. I was consumed with envy and constantly fantasized about striking it rich one day, just like them. By that time, I was spending three or four hours every day after work following the market. Even while at work, I couldn’t stop thinking about trading futures and was constantly checking my portfolio. Since futures markets can be so volatile, I was filled with anxiety—my heart would start racing and my palms would sweat every time I went to place an order. My biggest fear was waking up one morning to find that my entire fortune had evaporated overnight. As a result, I had bouts of insomnia and frequently lost my appetite. After becoming engrossed in the stock market for so long, I lost interest in my job, lost interest in my friendships, and lost interest in romance. So, I resigned from my job in order to devote my entire focus to the stock market.
One day, I got wind of an investment opportunity that claimed to generate an 8% return every month. Thinking this was my chance to easily rake in huge profits, and consumed with desire, I put all of my savings into this investment. Before the investment could even start paying a dividend, however, everything unraveled and it was exposed as a Ponzi scheme. Never mind the promised interest gains—in the end, I wasn’t even able to recoup the principal, which seemingly evaporated into thin air. During those years, I lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the stock market. I was crushed. But even then, I still hadn’t had enough. I saw that two or three of the apartments I’d invested in earlier were steadily increasing in value every year, and I kicked myself for not buying more. So, I went ahead and took out even more loans to buy two luxury apartments in a high-end area. Then, out of nowhere, the real estate market took a nosedive, and buyers were nowhere to be found. After a string of failed investments, losing my shirt in real estate, and getting up to my eyeballs in debt, I felt like all of my hard work over the past few years had amounted to nothing. I was devastated. No words could express the pain in my heart and, on the verge of a physical and mental breakdown, I collapsed on the floor and wept for two hours.
Soon after, I came across an article in the news about a young, single professional woman who, like me, had also done well for herself as a wealthy business executive. Like me, she too had bought some fancy property on the eve of the real estate crash and was left close to a quarter million dollars underwater in just six months. In utter despair, she climbed to the top floor of her office building and leapt to her death. Reading that really shook me up. How could a young, successful woman like that end her life over a couple hundred thousand dollars? That news story left me really confused. What does it really mean to have a successful life, anyway? Was chasing after fame and gain really the key to happiness?
Thank God, in my moment of pain and desperation, God’s salvation of the last days came to me. I read God’s words: “What does Satan use to keep man firmly within its control? (Fame and gain.) So, Satan uses fame and gain to control man’s thoughts, until all people can think of is fame and gain. They struggle for fame and gain, suffer hardships for fame and gain, endure humiliation for fame and gain, sacrifice everything they have for fame and gain, and they will make any judgment or decision for the sake of fame and gain. In this way, Satan binds people with invisible shackles, and they have neither the strength nor the courage to throw them off. They unknowingly bear these shackles and trudge ever onward with great difficulty. For the sake of this fame and gain, mankind shuns God and betrays Him and becomes increasingly wicked. In this way, therefore, one generation after another is destroyed in the midst of Satan’s fame and gain.” “The fame and fortune that one gains in the material world give temporary satisfaction, passing pleasure, a false sense of ease; in the process, they cause one to lose one’s way. And so people, as they thrash about in the vast sea of humanity, craving peace, comfort, and tranquility of heart, are engulfed by wave after wave. When people have yet to figure out the questions that are most crucial to understand—where they come from, why they are alive, where they are going, and so forth—they are seduced by fame and fortune, misled and controlled by them and irrevocably lost. Time flies; years pass in the blink of an eye, and before one realizes it, one has bid farewell to the best years of one’s life.”
After carefully contemplating God’s word, I finally realized that the pursuit of fame and gain was, in fact, the wrong path to take—indeed, it is Satan’s way of binding man with invisible shackles. In their stubborn pursuit of fame and gain, people lose themselves and become more and more corrupt, leading to a life fraught with more and more pain. I thought back on the laws of survival I had been steeped in over the years with notions like trying to stand out from others and “people struggle to go upward, but water flows downward.” My entire goal in life had been to rise through the ranks, and I thought someone’s position in society was determined by their job and their net worth. With this attitude, I single-mindedly pursued the goals of elevating my status and amassing money, regardless of how difficult things got or how much pain I suffered. When I first entered the work world, I tirelessly worked overtime day and night for a chance to get promoted. I often got home well past midnight, leaving me zero time to even consider dating. Before long, my body started sending me warning signs that I was burning myself out. When I couldn’t get promoted because I didn’t have an advanced degree, I refused to reconcile myself to the status quo and instead quit my job in order to study abroad, working hard to advance my knowledge. After I got my master’s degree, although I finally landed the job I’d always wanted and was living a luxurious lifestyle, I was still unsatisfied, so I decided to take it a step further by becoming an entrepreneur. In an effort to get rich quick, I even quit my job to devote all my time and energy to the stock market. Eventually, I risked my entire life savings in a speculative scheme that left me penniless and saddled with debt. Then, in an attempt to stage a comeback, I took on even more debt to invest in real estate. In the end, I gained nothing. Although I could have chosen to lead a simple, carefree life, I instead pursued fame and gain regardless of the cost, compelled by Satan’s laws of survival which claim “people struggle to go upward, but water flows downward,” and “no pain, no gain.” As soon as I gained something, I wanted something better. I was never satisfied with the status quo, and when I suffered a loss, it was all the more painful. Like a fly trapped in a spider’s web, I was utterly caught up in my pursuit of fame and gain without the chance to even catch my breath. It finally became clear to me that pursuing fame and gain had not brought me happiness. On the contrary, it was a never-ending descent into losing myself, sacrificing my health, missing out on a normal life, and wallowing in a pit of despair, all brought about by the pursuit of fame and gain. Moreover, I realized why that young successful woman I read about in the news had committed suicide after losing a quarter million dollars. It was entirely the result of having the wrong outlook on life and the consequence of pursuing fame and gain. Coming to these realizations gave me the will to defy Satan; it made me want to earnestly pursue the truth and never allow myself to get lost in the mad rush for fame and gain again.
After a while, however, I noticed that every time I saw someone else doing well in life, raising a wonderful family, and enjoying a great career, I invariably felt like a failure as a person since I was still alone and unemployed. Subsequently, my ambitious appetite once again reared its ugly head. I invested another large sum of money which again bled me dry of my hard-earned savings. It wasn’t until then that I realized just how deeply ensnared I was by this pursuit of fame and gain. Devoid of the truth, I had left myself wide open to be manipulated by Satan. Deep down, I cried out for God to save me, asking Him to help me escape from this trap of fame and gain. Later on, I thought of someone in my family whom everyone admired. She was extremely wealthy, her son had a successful career, and just last year she happily traveled to the United States to help take care of her grandson. But then, this year, she was unexpectedly diagnosed with a terminal illness. Relegated to lying in a hospital bed, she was lonely and helpless, just waiting for her life to come to an end. Then I thought of my sister-in-law’s mother. When they were young, she and her husband had created a life for themselves out of nothing, including earn some money from opening a small factory and buying several rental properties. But by that point, she too was stricken with illness and could no longer take care of herself. She had lived the past few years in a nursing home and sold all of her real estate properties, spending nearly every last dime she had saved from when she and her husband were younger—an unfortunate end to her twilight years. Then there was one of my close friends whom I’d known for decades. She was a high-level executive at her company but was later diagnosed with breast cancer and had to leave her job. Although she finally beat the cancer through chemotherapy, the treatment ended up costing her much of her hard-earned savings. All of these friends and family members were women who had highly successful careers and achieved a certain social standing. Nevertheless, no matter how much fame and gain they achieved, when it came time to face sickness and death, they all seemed so frail, so minuscule. Seeing what became of them was very emotional for me. No matter how good we have it, how well-regarded we are, how many people fawn over us—none of this can be exchanged for good health or give us life. What, then, is the meaning in pursuing fame and gain?
I read the following passage from God’s word: “People spend their lives chasing after money and fame; they clutch at these straws, thinking they are their only means of support, as if by having them they could live on, exempt from death. But only when they are about to die do they realize how distant these things are from them, how weak they are in the face of death, how easily they shatter, how lonely and helpless they are, with nowhere to turn. They realize that life cannot be bought with money or fame, that no matter how wealthy a person may be, no matter how lofty their position, all are equally poor and insignificant in the face of death. They realize that money cannot buy life, that fame cannot erase death, that neither money nor fame can lengthen a person’s life by a single minute, a single second.” When I compared God’s word to what my friends and family members had all gone through, it dawned on me that things like money, social status, luxury cars, and mansions have no intrinsic value. We bring nothing into this world when we are born, and it is certain we can carry nothing out of it when we die—everything is ephemeral. Indeed, none of these things are of any use when we prepare to meet death. They bring us neither peace nor joy, nor afford us an escape from death. Just as thesaid: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). Once more, I thought of the fact that although I had fought and struggled for so many years, acquired fame and gain, won approval and respect from others, and briefly satisfied my own vanity, these things never gave me genuine happiness. On the contrary, they only served to inflate my desires and left me with physical pain and a void in my heart. At the thought of this, I turned to God and prayed: “God! I now realize that I chose the wrong path. In my pursuit of fame and gain, I again fell into Satan’s trap. God! I repent to You, and pray that You will lead me on my future path.”
Once, while I was performing my spiritual devotions, I read these words of God: “If one views life as an opportunity to experience the Creator’s sovereignty and come to know His authority, if one sees one’s life as a rare chance to perform one’s duty as a created human being and to complete one’s mission, then one will surely have the correct outlook on life, will surely live a life blessed and guided by the Creator, will surely walk in the light of the Creator, will surely know the Creator’s sovereignty, will surely come under His dominion, and surely become a witness to His miraculous deeds, a witness to His authority.” Upon reading these words from God, I finally came to realize what the most meaningful thing a person should pursue in their life is. We are created by God, and everything we have comes from God. We should seek to know God and to become someone who worships and obeys Him. God has a plan for every person, matter, and thing in our everyday lives so that we may experience His sovereignty and bear witness to His acts. In doing so, we can live to please God and be a witness to Him. This is the only way to receive God’s commendation, and the only way to live a truly joyful and peaceful life. Since understanding whatis, I now devote myself to the church and no longer struggle for fame and gain. I only partner up with friends to carry out some small business deals and handle negligible investments here and there. In place of the glitz and glamor of fame and gain, I have found fellowship with my brothers and sisters as we come to experience and know God’s word together. This has brought me a real sense of peace in my heart, and a feeling of freedom and liberation. Above all, through my own experiences, I’ve learned that only having faith in God and pursuing the truth is the real key to true happiness! Thank God! Amen!