I was talking with a sweet friend the other day who is walking thru a tough season. In the middle of our conversation, she said “I just feel like such a failure.” My response to her went something like this:
“Do you know how often God asks me to talk about my failures? It’s like 99.9% of the time. I never get to talk about the stuff I did right! It is my failures and the lessons learned along that way that He wants to use to bring other people comfort and hope.”
Failure is not the end of the story.
If you have spent more than about 2 minutes reading the Bible in your lifetime, you have been reading about failures. Some of the most famous humans written about in the word of God were colossal failures in their day. Abraham got a woman pregnant other than his wife. Moses needed a speech class. David was an adulterer and murderer. Paul was the Hitler of his day. He might have been good at his job, but what a rotten human! Peter was part of the inner circle and yet he peaced out on Jesus in the last hours of his life. Martha was too busy making her famous chili to step out of the kitchen and into the presence of God. Rahab was a working girl in the truest sense of the word. Joseph was a loud-mouthed brat who got himself sold into slavery by his own brothers.
Yet even in the midst of their failure, God still used them to make a huge difference in their world and in the course of human history. Failure might take you down but it does not have to take you out. It is actually what sets you up for success. Failure is an excellent teacher and it teaches us what we don’t know. When we know better, we have the ability to do better. Wisdom comes from experience and we typically learn the most and grow the most from failure.
Listen up, sister. YOU are not a failure. Failure is not a person, it’s an event. Failure is not your identity and it is not your destination. It is like a magnifying glass into our souls that stops us in our tracks and says “work here next.” It shows us where the brokenness hides so we have an opportunity to bring it to the healing light.
Then we do the work. The work of mending our soul takes guts. It takes digging into the messy pile of garbage that has been piling up our whole lives and sorting it out one piece at a time. This process takes time and maybe professional help. I always ask my therapist which one of her kids I put thru college. Then we both laugh because we know it’s true. Freedom ain’t free, but it’s always worth the price.
Once we get to the other side, we can yell back to those coming up behind us in the minefield of life and say “Don’t step there! Trust me; that one doesn’t work out so well!” From other side of failure, we can offer people wisdom and hope. Hope that they will survive. Hope that this will all be ok. Hope that the journey is worth it.
Hebrews 6:19 says
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul…”
Hope really is a shot in the arm on the days when we aren’t sure things will ever get better. On the days when our failures seem too deep to ever dig out, hope says “so you’re saying there’s a chance!” Some days, we don’t need to know all the details. We just need to know it’s possible. We just need to know that brighter days are ahead.
Something I have learned over the years is that things do get better. We learn and grow and change. Our failures really do teach us the most valuable lessons in life. And while it is true that God created you for greatness, it’s not really about your accomplishments. The failures and successes are just details in the bigger picture of the story God is writing in your life. And your story isn’t over, my friend. Not by a long shot. You might have hit a speed bump on the road of life and spilled hot coffee all over your brand new cashmere sweater ‘cause you’re fancy like that, but that doesn’t mean you quit your job, sell all your earthly belongings and move to a cave in the hills of Tibet. It means you need a new cup of coffee and a good dry cleaner.
He isn’t finished. That means neither are you. Just breathe…