A dear friend recently said to me, “I feel like a total failure.” Oh, I know the feeling, don’t you? If experience qualifies me as an expert, then I feel fairly competent to talk about failure because I’ve had my share. There are some gigantic failures in my past—things for all the world to see—and there are others which are smaller, known only to God and me.
I am convinced, as I read the emails that comes my way, that many of you even now are struggling with failure. You feel totally defeated and discouraged because you’ve failed in some way. Maybe you keep failing in the same way over and over, and you’re ashamed and guilt-ridden as a result. I want to talk to you from my heart.
Let me first share with you the blessings of failure. I know, you didn’t think there were any blessings in failure, but believe me, there are! Here’s what I mean. One of the most difficult things for any of us human beings to admit is that we are sinful. None of us truly wants to believe that we are not capable in ourselves of doing good or being good.
That’s because we’re born proud. Pride is at the root of all our wrong thinking and actions. Until we can come to understand and admit that within us there is no good thing, that all the things which we call good look like filthy rags to God, and that we’re just one huge mess on our own, we can never really know God. If pride is the thing that keeps me from knowing God and from the fullness of who I am in Christ, then whatever it takes to help me see that has to be a blessing in my life.
Therefore, failure is a blessing, for it teaches me just exactly who I am in my natural, unredeemed condition. C. S. Lewis states it so well in his book Mere Christianity. Speaking of failure, he says, “It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven.”
Those failures which look like total disasters can indeed be an instrument of blessing to “cure your illusions about yourself,” as C. S. Lewis put it.