The dictionary defines ‘failure’ as an inability to perform a normal function well enough.
I’ve experienced so much ‘failure’ in my life. I’ve failed out of nursing school, I’ve ‘failed’ in the ministry, I’ve ‘failed’ in my marriage, ‘failed’ as a mom, ‘failed’ my friends, the list can go on and on.
One thing I’ve seen is that failure can stop you from taking chances, being vulnerable and wanting to take risks again. It can make us hesitate to give our hearts in dating or wanting to lead or try something new. Failure can fill us with self-pity and prevent us from believing in God’s plan for our lives. Failure -or even just the fear of it- can destroy our faith!
I’ve become tired of wallowing in self-pity, consumed with myself, just because I ‘didn’t perform a normal function well enough.’ I’ve had to change my view of failure.
When I focus on my failures, I’m not focusing on God. Truth is, God doesn’t see failure the way we do. God only sees something as a ‘failure’ when we quit.
God has a plan in all of our mistakes, all of our wrong decisions, and all of our sins.
When we take God’s perspective, failure is only a “foundation” upon which we can we build our faith.
So how do we change the way we think (Romans 12:2) about failure in order to allow God to revive our hearts and believe again?
Change your definition of failure: be purified not pressured
Like a refiner of silver he will sit and closely watch as the dross is burned away. He will purify the Levites, the ministers of God, refining them like gold or silver, so that they will do their work for God with pure hearts. Then once more the Lord will enjoy the offerings brought to him by the people of Judah and Jerusalem, as he did before.
Malachi 3:3-4 TLB
Many times when I think I am going through failure, it is actually God refining and purifying me, so that I can be close to him again and what I do can be acceptable to God. My heart can become filled with impure motives and I need difficult times to help me turn back to God so that I do things just to please God.
The pressure I feel when going through times of perceived failure is actually God purifying me. Trials and challenges in life expose and squeeze out the impurities in our hearts. They humble us, they can make us feel weak, but they are not failures. They are stepping stones to help us become who God has planned for us to be.
When my father in law was baptized, my husband and I were in the midst of what felt like ‘failure,’ a spiritual mid-life crisis. We were confused how God could do such an amazing thing when we felt like we were doing so bad. Our daughter showed us this Scripture, and it gave us – and continues to give us – God’s perspective:
“Even sinners will be rescued; they will be rescued because your hands are pure.”
Job 22:30 NLT
In order for us to rescue people, we have to go through times of being purified. And while this experience may not be easy, it doesn’t mean you’re done for – it means God needs to work on you so that he can use you more.
Paradoxically, my bitter experience was pushing me toward wholeness. For You, God, have put behind all my shortcomings and wrongdoings.You have rescued me from death. You pulled me from a black hole of nothingness and held me close to You.
Isaiah 38:17 (Voice)
As this verse says, you don’t have to allow your “experiences, shortcomings and wrongdoings” to become a black hole of nothingness. God has something greater planned. He may “push” and “pull” you, in the process, but he will also rescue you and hold you close. So don’t quit under the pressure but trust God in this purifying process.
Your faith will get stronger.
Change our approach to life: Be risky not regretful
“He said, ‘That’s what I mean: Risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of. Play it safe and end up holding the bag.”
Luke 19:26 MSG
When she spoke at Harvard’s commencement cermony in 2011, JK Rowling gave a very inspirational view of failure that I think we can all learn from:
“I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive …
And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.
You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”
Everyone has things in their lives that feel risky. It’s risky to trust when you have felt betrayed, to love when you’ve been hurt, to believe when you’ve been disappointed. It’s risky to lead again, to give 100% effort, to speak up for what’s right. It’s risky to be humble and be a learner.
When our faith is low, and we begin using past experiences or hurts as an excuse to stop taking risks, we will one day need to face the regrets of opportunities lost. But when we take risks God can actually make our faith grow.
So what risks do you need to take? Here are 3 common risks that, if taken, could make all the difference in our lives:
1. Risk to be known
O Eternal One, You have explored my heart and know exactly who I am
Psalm 139:1 Voice
When you take the risk to be known by God, and he knows exactly who you are, you can be confident to let others know as well.
2. Risk to admit need
My purpose is to invite sinners to turn from their sins, not to spend my time with those who think themselves already good enough.
Luke 5:32 (TLB)
Jesus came to meet needs. When we act like we don’t have them, we lose our ability to be close to God and others.
3. Risk to forgive
Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Luke 7:49 (AMP)
When we allow God to forgive us, we can be free to forgive others. Our love shrinks for our husbands, for our kids, and for those who are hurting, when we don’t forgive.
Change our focus: see what God is doing not what you’ve done
Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.
Failure can make us self consumed. Faith grows when we focus on God not ourselves and our own failures.
There is a sure way for us to know that we belong to the truth. Even though our inner thoughts may condemn us with storms of guilt and constant reminders of our failures, we can know in our hearts that in His presence God Himself is greater than any accusation. He knows all things. 1 John 3:19 (Voice)
There are so many examples in the Bible where people thought at the time they were failing.
- Abraham took a shortcut to gods promise by marrying Hagar. Genesis 16:1-16
- Jacob lied to get his birthright. Genesis 27:1-46
- Hannah felt like a failure when she couldn’t conceive children. 1 Samuel 1:1-18
- Peter denied Jesus and went back to fishing. John 18:25-27, 21:3-19
These are just a few examples. As in the case of these men and women, God always has a bigger plan, a better plan, and a beautiful plan, if we don’t quit.
For you have need of patient endurance (to bear up under difficult circumstances without compromising, ) so that when you have carried out the will of God, you may receive and enjoy to the full what is promised.
Hebrews 10:36 AMP
It doesn’t matter to God how long you’ve struggled, or what you’re struggling with, He has a longview of our lives, and is working on us (and in us) in ways we may not know for years to come.
So let us all decide to get courage from knowing that God is with us and for us. God can make our faith bigger than our failures!