In our lives, we make all kinds of mistakes and have lots of failures. These failures can drag us down and make us question the value of our lives and our value to God. God has promised us that we are more than conquerors, so how do we believe that when everything looks a mess? The Scripture tells us a lot.
Probably the first thing we all need to understand about failure is that it is universal. We all experience failure and we all make mistakes. No one who has ever lived or ever will live can avoid failure except Jesus. So, we only have one model to look to for perfection.
A common phrase these days is ‘what would Jesus do?’
In the Bible, we have examples of what Jesus did when he encountered people whose lives were a mess. In John 8, Jesus encounters a group of Pharisees who wish to stone a woman to death for adultery. Jesus challenges them, saying “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7b KJV) Jesus then tells the woman to “go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11b KJV) This woman had failed so miserably that her life was in danger yet Jesus forgives her, and doesn’t criticize her but tells her to go and do better.
If we then use Jesus as a model of how to deal with our own failures, we first forgive. This is so hard to do: it’s our nature to berate ourselves and replay our failure over and over again. Jesus didn’t do this, He just forgave and said try harder. This is what we must learn to do to conquer failure in our lives. We’ve given the burden over to Jesus, if we keep taking it back again we are too heavy to keep going and do better. By doing this, we fail Jesus, we aren’t able to go out and do His work.
“But my failures are too big for Him to forgive and my life is such a mess, nothing will straighten it out.” Not true. As Jesus hung on the cross, dying, two convicts hung on crosses beside Him. He offered both of them salvation and one man accepted. That man went to heaven that day with Jesus.
That man’s failure was such that it cost him his life but Jesus gave him eternal life anyway. (Luke 23:43) Nothing is too big for God to bear. Nothing is too bad for Him to forgive if we are sincere in asking for forgiveness. We must ask forgiveness, turn away from the failure and start anew. “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;” (Philippians 1:6b NAS)
When dealing with failures that are the result of our sins, we need to do what we can to right wrongs we have done others. We need to bear responsibility for our actions and accept consequences for them. But no purpose is served by constantly berating ourselves for mistakes.
Not all failures are the result of sin. Sometimes things just happen that we can’t control. It’s kind of like the theory that a butterfly flaps its wings in South America and a tornado blows up in Kansas. If you try hard enough, you can create a chain of evidence that links the two events, but you would have had no control over either event and couldn’t have discovered the link until after the fact. Sometimes, all we can do is shrug our shoulders and start over.
It’s not our nature to shrug off failures, though. We go over and over and over them. To a point this is good, we find things we could have done better or differently and learn from these things. When it gets to the point where the replays are hindering forward movement, that’s when it’s time to quit. God wants us to keep moving forward. “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14 KJV)
Perhaps the hardest failures to deal with are those that are caused by other people. We suffer the consequences of someone else’s actions. It feels so unfair, so unjust and it’s infuriating. What if your business failed because your accountant ran off with all your money? What if your marriage failed because your husband took off with another woman? How are we to deal with these kinds of failures?
It’s okay to get angry. Jesus got angry with the moneychangers in the temple. Paul taught, “Be ye angry, and sin not:” (Ephesians 4:26a) When does anger turn from righteous to sin? That’s a judgment call but it turns quickly. When feelings of bitterness, resentment and desires for revenge start cropping up, it’s certain that the time has come to let go of the anger.
That’s no simple task and one we are not likely to be completely successful in doing. Letting go of the anger means forgiving the person that has hurt us. Ugh. Forgiveness is so hard. It’s also the only cure for bitterness and resentment. Learning to forgive is a whole other topic too large to go into here, but it is important in dealing with failures caused by others. If we don’t deal with the issue of forgiveness, we end up with more failure caused by our anger.
Paul teaches us, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:” (Ephesians 4:31 KJV) David says, “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret, it leads only to evildoing” (Psalm 37:8 NAS) The Bible is filled with lessons about forgiveness because Christianity is all about forgiveness. We would have no eternal life without the forgiving grace of God.
When we evaluate failures in our lives, it’s important to also look at our measuring stick. Perhaps our idea of success is askew. We live in a culture that measures success with dollars. If you have a lot of dollars, you are successful. This is not the measure that God uses when He evaluates our success. “18 “Riches and honor are with me, Enduring wealth and righteousness. 19 “My fruit is better than gold, even pure gold, And my yield than choicest silver.” (Proverbs 8:18-19 NAS) Look again at your life and reevaluate what you call failure; it may be that you’re using the wrong measuring stick.
Failures happen in all of our lives, no one is exempt. Some failure is of our own doing, other failures just happen. People who wrong us cause other kinds of failure. And sometimes, we just don’t see the situation as God sees it. Whatever the cause of the failure God is faithful to provide us a solution. We can overcome everything with God’s help. We are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:37)