I love to succeed. I mean, I REALLY love to succeed. However, life had taught me some brutal lessons – despite your best efforts, you are unlikely to do well at everything you touch. How do we reconcile this reality of life against the promises in the Bible? How do we deal with failure?
“The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?”
Psalm 27:1 NIV
“The LORD will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.”
Deuteronomy 28:13 NIV
“no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD.”
Isaiah 54:17 NIV
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28 NIV
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.”
Psalm 1:1-3 NIV
As ever, Scriptures must be read completely and in context. You cannot pick one segment of one verse and doggedly build your life’s theology around it. That is a quick path to disappointment, heresy and even falling away. God loves for us to succeed. But even more than that, God loves US. “Success” – as we understand it – is not always the right or best outcome for us. An example would be where “success” would lead to pride, which would lead to more sin, and ultimately to a fall. Another is where success would reinforce a belief or path that would ultimatley lead us to less than the best God has for us.
We are not to chase or expect failure. However, we should not fear it. Failure has no power over the soul who sincerely trusts that God is working all things together for his or her good.
Have you ever tried to rescue an insect from your bathroom and set it free? Have you watched that insect struggle, fly or crawl away from you in an attempt … to be free? You see, that insect doesn’t know what you’re trying to do. It’s beyond its understanding. You can see the big picture and understand the consequences if it stays in your bathroom. Sooner or later, it’s going to get squished. Out of your compassion for life, you struggle to capture it, or gently lead it out of the danger it had no idea it’s in. If that insect could pray, it might ask for deliverance from you. It might ask for a successful escape from your clutches. In this circumstance, its failure to escape you would be a good thing. While the insight might bemoan its capture and temporarily mourn its fate, it would eventually be transported to greater freedom as a direct result of that apparent failed escape attempt.
We are God’s creatures, well loved and very intelligent. However, the entire scope of our understanding pales in comparison to God’s, so scripture makes very clear. Therefore, all we need to do is trust and obey Him. The results may not always be what we expect, but there’s no need to fear. The Father sees, the Father knows and the Father is in control.
Nicky Gumbel, Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton (England) and pioneer of the Alpha Course, recently said that he had never met a strong person who’d had an easy life. This is probably because strength of character and conviction are forged in the fires of adversity. The process is tough, but the fruit is beautiful.
Let us not seek failure, but let us not fear it. Our disappointments may be signposts pointing us towards a goal and destiny greater than we originally envisioned for ourselves.
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”
Philippians 4:11 NIV
“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”
1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT