Monday, October 7th, 2019
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.
Tuesday, October 8th, 2019
In examining how we can recover from failure, I want to look at a story of failure in Scripture and see how our Lord dealt with it. You’ll find it recorded in Luke 22; here we see Peter as a total failure.
Did you ever think about the fact that Jesus knew beforehand precisely how badly Peter would fail him? He tells Peter exactly what he’s going to do and when: “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me” (Luke 22:34). Jesus knew the great failure Peter was to become in just a few short hours, but he did not discard him. People may discard you for failures; Jesus doesn’t. People may refuse to give you second chances; Jesus doesn’t. People look at failure as the end of the road; Jesus sees it as a place of new beginning.
Notice that Jesus told Peter he had already prayed for him, that “when you have turned back,” he would strengthen his brothers. Wow! Isn’t that great?! Jesus believed that even though Peter was going to fail miserably, he would have a comeback. As a result of failing and coming back, Peter would be able to strengthen his brothers.
Do you see what I mean about failure? God is able to use it for good in our lives. He’s not waiting for you to make a mistake so he can have an excuse to punish you. He is incredibly capable of turning your failures into instruments of good.
Notice also that Jesus indicates Satan had something to do with this failure on Peter’s part. Satan uses the tactic of failure to try to ruin us. I believe it is one of his most effective tools. First, he tempts us to sin, and then he dumps guilt on us and tries to tell us that this failure is terminal and we can never recover.
Maybe that’s the stage you’re in now concerning a failure of your own. Do you feel totally guilt-ridden, as though it is fatal? Please listen carefully and understand this marvelous truth: Jesus is in the business of restoration and recovery. He will not discard you, just as he did not discard Peter. Satan meant to use failure to destroy Peter, but God used it to refine him.
Wednesday, October 9th, 2019
Are you a failure? I can answer that question for all of us: Yes. Yes, you are a failure, and so am I. It is inherent in each of us to fail miserably at various points in our lives. Some of us have failed rather visibly; with others it may be less obvious. But it began with our ancestor Adam and, since then, each of his descendants has continued to fail. Let’s explore some real steps we must take in order to recover from failure.
Step one is to admit we’ve failed. For many, this is the hardest thing to do. However, until we admit our failures without excuses, we won’t be able to find our way back.
What’s your first reaction when you know you’ve failed? I can tell you what mine is—I want to run away. I don’t want to face it; I want to forget it or ignore it. After that, my tendency is to rationalize and excuse my failure. It’s amazing how good I am at finding ways to escape from blame when I’ve failed.
Unfortunately, it’s very common to hear people these days blaming all their failures on others. It’s become popular to nail parents as the cause of our failures, or our social status, or our bad breaks. Oh, we can find lots of scapegoats when we’re forced to acknowledge that we’ve failed. But as long as we refuse to take the responsibility and be held accountable for our failures, we will be unable to recover from them.
Let me encourage you today to simply admit to God that you’ve failed. When you do, leave off all the qualifying phrases that usually follow. You know what I mean: “I failed in that relationship, but if he had just tried to understand me, we could have worked it out.” Or, “I failed to show the love of Christ to that difficult co-worker, but believe me, I’m nicer to her than most people. No one can get along with her.” Leave off the phrases that start with “but.” Just admit you’ve failed.
This is called confession. While it may be true that other people promoted or contributed to your failure through failures of their own, you can only confess for yourself. Until you are willing to be accountable for your failures, you’ll never recover from them.
Thursday, October 10th, 2019
I’m examining some steps to recover from failure. The first essential step is to admit the failure and confess it, without excuses. To accept the blame and responsibility for your failure.
The next step is to ask God if there is someone else to whom you should confess your failure and/or ask for forgiveness. This is hard to do, I know, but it is really a necessary step in recovering from failure. Let me tell you this: It’s not nearly as difficult as it seems. The decision is the hard part. You will be amazed at the great freedom and relief that will flood your heart and mind once you’ve confessed your failure to God and to any others where necessary.
The third step is to analyze your failure so you can learn from it. Was the failure one that you could see coming, or did it take you by surprise? For example, you may have failed in your moral behavior because you allowed yourself to get involved in a relationship which you knew from the beginning was not right. Perhaps you started lowering your standards one by one, little by little, until you found yourself in moral failure. That’s a failure that could have been foreseen; you knew it was a snake when you picked it up, so you should have known it would bite you.
It’s helpful to retrace your steps and discover precisely where you made the first mistake which led to the failure. What was the first standard you lowered? What are the biblical principles you ignored? How did you justify and rationalize your behavior? It would be a good idea to write those things down, and ask the Spirit of God to show you clearly how this failure developed.
In this way, you can very precisely confess your failures to God, and know exactly where you need to fortify your life to prevent that same pattern from occurring again.
Perhaps, however, your failure really was not something you saw coming. It’s important you understand how it could have taken you unaware. Where do you need to fortify your mind so that you are not vulnerable in that area any longer?
I want to encourage you to take responsibility for your failures, confess them to God—and others, if necessary—and seek to learn from them.
Friday, October 11th, 2019
As I conclude this topic of recovering from failure, it may be that you are facing a failure of such enormity that you need help from others to analyze it correctly and recover. Remember, recovering from failure requires understand you’ve failed, but not for the purpose of dumping the blame on someone else. Your recovery hinges on admitting your failure, taking responsibility for it, and trying to discover how it happened in order to prevent it from reoccurring.
Once you’ve done these things, then the next step is to understand that Jesus has the power and the desire to redeem you from that failure and give you victory over it in the future. I believe one of our enemy’s most effective weapons against us is to keep us totally bound by our past failures.
Is that where you are today? Let me ask you this: If God can and has forgiven you and is no longer condemning you for your past failures, what right do you have not to forgive yourself? Is that not an arrogant attitude? After all, what did you expect from yourself?
I’m coming to the place where my failures don’t surprise me any longer because I’m learning just how totally weak and helpless I am on my own. Now, that doesn’t mean that I’m not grieved by my failures; it does not mean that I take them lightly. Quite the opposite. But the more I get to know Jesus, the more I see that in myself I am totally unreliable and prone to fail.
However, the great and wonderful news is that because of Jesus, I can be victorious. Can you see that admitting you have failed and knowing how likely it is you’ll fail again drives you back to the one person who can keep you from failing? It’s one of those paradoxes of Scripture: When you learn what a failure you are in yourself, then you are forced to put your life in the hands of Jesus, who can strengthen you so that you can recover from past failures and avoid future ones.
Believe me, I’m living proof of his ability to do that, as there have been failures in my life which are considered by some to be fatal. But not by God! I can say with the Psalmist: “You have turned my wailing into dancing; you have removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever” (Psalm 30:11-12).