I often experience the pain of failure. I pray to not fail. I plan to not fail. But, I’m confident that failure is a gift because it tells me that I am not God. I’m sure that you never have that challenge, but I do. When things in my life seem to be headed in the right direction, it’s all because I’m killing it! And when it’s all headed the wrong direction, it’s got to be someone else’s fault.
I entered the business world right out of school. I had some big wins and I’ve had some epic failures. I’ve had a similar experience in 28 years of ministry leadership. I recognized a few years ago that I have relied almost entirely on my own abilities to get things done.
Self-sufficiency will only get us so far and will inevitably result in exhaustion, wounded relationships, and poor choices. Failure reminds us that we are not supposed to do this on our own. We need God and we need others. Failure tells us that we are not in control. There are things that we cannot fix or manage. We can wallow in self-pity or exasperation for others, or we can let it go, allowing failure to teach us that there are people, circumstances, and challenges that are way beyond us.
Abraham, the “Father of Faith” floundered in failure—doubting God, making sinful choices, hurting himself and his family. God concludes the telling of his story in the New Testament with these words from Romans 4:4-5 in The Message:
If you’re a hard worker and do a good job, you deserve your pay; we don’t call your wages a gift. But if you see that the job is too big for you, that it’s something only God can do, and you trust him to do it—you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked—well, that trusting-him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God. Sheer gift.
Failure reminds us that we are human and that we must rely on someone greater than yourself. Ironically, as others watch you walk humbly in your failure and draw deep on your reliance on God, they will be drawn to you even more!
As we express hurt, disappointment, failure, significance, and joy—all the while hanging on to God’s every word and his strength—we offer a priceless gift to the folks God has placed in our lives.
When we realize that we can’t dig our way out of failure and allow the Redeemer to redeem we are taking a giant leap toward winning at failure. Waiting after a failure, especially a public failure, while others are gossiping about us, or when we clearly see our own glaring mistakes is tough. It might even seem impossible to believe that something good could be born out of something so painful. But you’ve done this before. The Apostle Paul explains in Romans 8:22-24 from The Message:
The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us, it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs . . . That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us [failure?]. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.
While you wait to see God’s redemption, allow “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” to be born in you. That way, this gift that you did not invite becomes the unexpected means to fill you with peace, power, and fulfillment. And, at that time you can experience failure as a gift and simply say, “Thank you.”
“Max Lucado once wrote: Blessed are the available. Blessed are the conduits, the tunnels, the tools. Deliriously joyful are the ones who believe that if God has used sticks and rocks to do His will,
then He can use us.”
Maybe, like me, you have earned a Ph.D. in failure. Maybe you are stuck in a life-long rut of self-chastisement having never learned that failure is simply another step closer to victory. My prayer for you today is that you might use failure as a ladder to step over your challenges and a trampoline to vault you beyond your past failures and into a new failure that God will use to make you and those around you better!
Go in Peace!