Failure is a scary word.
It displays our weaknesses, our vulnerability, and strips away some of our security. It makes us feel exposed and shows that we could be in trouble. In fact, failure hurts us and reminds us that our pain may not be going away anytime soon.
In addition, there are times when we have a sense of failure over things for which we have little control or do not have the ability to accomplish. I will never, for example, run a mile in under 4 minutes. It ain’t happening! There is no amount of training, diet, coaching, or time that could result in me running a 3:59 mile. I simply do not have the goods for such an accomplishment. Yet, there are times when it seems like I have to do something I cannot control or do not have the ability to do – similar to running a 3:59 mile.
Failure is scary.
Failure is a common experience.
Not only is failure a scary concept, but I find it is also a fairly common one. There are days when I totally fail as a husband. There are other days when my failures as a father rise to the top. Yet other days, when I fail at my responsibilities in a ministry setting. In fact, failure is such a common experience that it seems hopeless I will escape its daily threats.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe you have been there. Maybe you have looked at your life and realized that your failures almost seem to outweigh everything else. So what do you do? How do you deal with the reality that failure is a regular companion?
Here are three ideas that can help:
#1. Remember that we are given the righteousness of Christ
This will not mean that everyone in your life will ignore your failures; it will not mean that you escape from the consequences of failure. However, it will help you to trust in the rock that is higher than you (Psalm 61). It will help you to cling to the fact that, in Christ, you are seen as pure and clean (2 Cor 5:21). It is these truths that restore our safety and security. Thus, even if our failures result in something very bad, we have the Lord who helps us in the midst of the bad.
In fact, my own failures remind me of how great my salvation is. My failures constantly remind me that I am not good enough for God. I am not smart enough, skilled enough, I don’t work hard enough, nor am I wise enough to ever be good enough for God. What a joyous thought this is. Because, in the midst of my failure, I see a perfect and glorious savior. As the light of my own righteousness dims, the glow of the righteousness of Christ shines ever brighter.
Yes, I live with the reality that I fail. But that reality is outweighed by the truth that I am clothed with the righteousness of Christ my savior.
#2. Seek to use failures to take a step of growth
It is true that getting to a better place will not take you out of the realm of failure. However, there is great comfort in knowing that God can use the failure in your life to conform you to the image of Christ (Rom 8:28-29). A step of progress is a reminder that the God who gave you positional perfection in your relationship with Jesus also gives you growth in the midst of your failure. In other words, God is proving that he who began a good work will complete it (Phil 1:6).
This may also mean that you will need to ask your spouse for help, receive biblical counseling, get additional training, or learn to prioritize more effectively. In other words, your failures require you to be humble and learn from others. The great news is that God gives grace to the humble, but he opposes the proud. In other words, pride only makes the failures worse. Humility leads to God’s grace (James 4:6).
In fact, God’s strength is most evident in our weaknesses. So failure is a way to identify some of the areas that God wants you to change the most.
#3. Recognize that fixing one failure cannot be an excuse to eliminate all other biblical priorities
One wise man once said that balance is the place I pass on my way to another extreme. When confronted with our failure, there is a tendency for us to do something similar. We may, for example, realize that we have an area that needs to change. So that area becomes our focus. In the meantime, other areas of our lives are neglected.
The key to balancing our responsibilities is to remember that no one area can dominate all the others. We are encouraged to please the Lord in every area of life (2 Cor 5:9). We may need to invest more time in one area than another in order to grow, but we must also be aware of the responsibilities so they are not neglected.
You and I know that I have not said all that could be said about failure, which naturally implies that this article is a failure! Thankfully, it is Jesus that we look to in the midst of our failure. Thankfully, we are free, with the Lord’s help, to continue to get better. Thankfully, victory overcomes all failure and the Lord’s strength shines most clearly in our weaknesses.
How has the Lord helped you deal with failure?