Saturday, November 14, 2009

How to Fail Like a Christian

Failure - we've all had to deal with it. Even if you consider yourself to be successful, you've probably had to deal with some failure at every stage of life. The big issue for us isn't whether we fail but how we respond when we fail.

I've found that how I actually deal with failure says a lot about what I really believe about God and His work in my life. While I neither seek failure nor prefer it, it's helpful to view failure with a Biblical perspective when I confront it. Here are three "good" things that can be accomplished through failure.

First, we learn of our limitations. We're limited in our talents, limited in our effort and even limited in our character. We are reminded that we're finite and God is not. God is unlimited in His ability to affect His universe:

"Our God is in the heavens and he does all that he pleases" (Psalm 115:3).

God never tires or sleeps:

"He will not let your foot be moved. He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold He who keeps Israel who neither slumber nor sleep." (Psalm 121: 3-4)

Second, through failure, we are disciplined and refined. God often works in our lives more prominently through hardship and failures than through prosperity and success. Through failure, God works to free us from the siren songs of this world - particularly the love of the "praise of men". I've discovered that much of my "fear of failure" actually stems from a craving for recognition and praise. Understanding this brings forth the seed of repentance and I'm comforted that God is at work even in the midst of failure.

Finally, failure draws the Christian to God because we are one step nearer to the end of ourselves. We better understand our limitations and our weaknesses. We are not crushed by failure but humbled by it. When we experience the pain of failure, we are drawn to trust in our Savior who died a failure in the sight of men but accomplished more than anyone perceived at the time.

By responding to failure in this way, we testify to the reality of the invisible God we love and serve.


Halfmom said...

Well said!

I also have a very strong fear of failure. It stems from wanting to avoid shame at all costs rather than just to do what I do well.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I think we have to be willing to fail in the eyes of people. This is what Jesus did, and is the way of Jesus. And it's not about what others think, though when God's blessing is on us, others may (or may not) see that.

Good words, ESI.

Red Letter Believers said...

The Christian community spends far too much time on victory and winning and not enough time on losing.

We dont teach our people how to react to failure, loss and disappointment.

But the reality is that things will not always go our way. That's just life!

Your article really starts us down a good path toward understanding

Every Square Inch said...

Susan/halfmom - if it's any comfort, you're like 90% of everyone I know. i've come to realize that when people talk about fear of failure, it's really the loss of reputation or the shame that comes with failure that they really fear.

Ted - I think being willing to fail is a big deal for most of us...we cannot seem to shut off the voice of what others think

RLB - I think you're on to something with your comment. The fact that we spend most of our time on victory may be rooted in a triumphalism theology, perhaps?

Ted M. Gossard said...

I agree. And in a sense that is a part of being human in a good way. We want to fulfill the reason for why we're here, both in terms of relationships and vocation/calling.

I'm thinking of this in terms of how the world looks at life and sevice, and how we look at it. So that though they may think we're at best weak, what's important is if we're really seeking to follow Jesus through it all.

Our estimation of the world's values of what is success of course will be different, so that we see through it for what it is.