Facing Down Fear of Failure
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How many good things might we be missing out on simply because we’re afraid to fail? More importantly, what plans might God have for us that we’re in danger of missing out on because we’re afraid of failing—so we never even try?
You might not see yourself doing outstanding things, so maybe you’re trying to excuse yourself from taking the first step in certain directions. Maybe you figure it’s okay for you to avoid certain things because it doesn’t seem like a big deal now for you to skip out on it. Remember, though, that every person in history who achieved something outstanding had to risk failing and start out without ever knowing if they would accomplish something great.
Look at Joshua and the children of Israel taking on the city of Jericho.1 The Israelites had a strong army; they had defeated plenty of other cities. But instead of fighting, God was telling them to walk around the city. You can imagine what they were thinking by the third or fourth day: “Okay, we’ve been walking for a few days now and nothing’s happening. Jericho’s army is laughing at us. We must look totally stupid.”
But did they quit? No! And because they were willing to face their fears, the walls fell down, and the city was conquered.
Look at David going to face Goliath.2 He was certainly the least likely candidate around. He wasn’t even a soldier! He had no weapons training, no battle skills, no giant-fighting history. On top of that, he was just a scrawny teen.
But did he let any of that stop him? Nope. Did he stop when people laughed at him for offering? Did he stop when Goliath laughed at him? Nope and nope. He figured he was the one for the job, and he didn’t let anything get in the way of his destiny. He stepped up, faced his fears, and slung that giant dead.
Look at John Grisham, a best-selling American author. His first novel, A Time to Kill, was initially a flop. The book was rejected by 16 agents and a dozen publishing companies. Finally, a small company printed a mere 5,000 copies, and Grisham purchased 1,000 of those copies to sell personally. He did his own book tour, promoting his book in his hometown library, then in various libraries across the state. And it took a good few months before he sold off all those books. I wonder if he felt apprehensive trying to sell a book that didn’t seem to be going anywhere. I wonder if he ever got hit with thinking “I should just call it quits on my writing career.” During this time, however, Grisham didn’t give up on writing and worked on a second novel, The Firm, which became an instant success. His determination paid off, even if initially he may have appeared to be a failure.3
It takes faith to persevere in the direction God leads you when you risk looking foolish. It takes faith in God’s plan to fail and then to keep trying. It takes faith to try something that seems crazy or unrealistic. But that’s the kind of faith that pleases God, and that He has promised to reward.4
Is there something you’ve been avoiding because you’re scared of failing? Are you running away from some challenge in your life because you don’t want to look dumb if you mess up? If you are, stop! Turn around. Face that challenge, dare to try, pursue the calling God has laid on your heart, and reach for the stars!—Marie Story5
There are times in our lives where fear seems to grip our hearts so tightly it squeezes the very life out of each ounce of authentic, unconjured courage. Our past failures fuel the fire where fear slowly burns, the warm coals pulsing red-hot. Out of nowhere, a flame sparks upward and we’re reminded of the heat contained within. The gray coal we thought dormant shows life once again, and our past rears its head and cripples us again.
Fear seeks to destroy you and the beautiful future laid out before you. It wants nothing less than to maim and leave you insecure. It takes the gifts God has given you and twists them so they appear weak and inert.
And you can do one of two things with that paralyzing fear.
You can let it keep you … out of the game of idea-sharing, problem-solving, healthy community, where fear and insecurities dominate.
Or you can dominate your fear. Reminded that you weren’t created out of fear, but out of love, you can stoke the flame of your God-given gifts. Laughing at fear’s potential to cripple, you can begin to help others become conquerors.6
If you’re afraid, work through it and let it propel you to work harder, dig deeper, and fight with all the strength you’ve got.
If you’re afraid, use that fuel to charge your creativity to go places it’s not gone. Instead of stuffing fear under the proverbial rug, find a way to explore it, using it for good.7
Whatever you do, don’t let fear win.
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, … for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”8—Ben Reed9
I love you regardless of how well you are performing. Whenever you’re struggling with performance anxiety, bring those feelings to Me.
Your mind has already unmasked this robber of Peace many times, but the rascal continues to claw at your heart when you let down your guard. You find yourself struggling with feelings of failure, sometimes without even knowing why. I want to help you break free of this bondage through the empowerment of My unfailing Love.
Come to Me with your feelings of failure. Bring them into the Light of My presence, where we can examine them together. These feelings—based on lies and deceptions—thrive in the darkness, where you are hardly aware of them at all. But they shrivel and shrink in My brilliant, healing Light. All in all, your performance anxiety is no match for Me. I defeated this villain in the same way I triumphed over Satan—in My finished work on the cross!
When feelings of failure weigh you down, look up to Me. Let the Light of My Love shine upon you: dispelling the darkness, lifting you closer and closer to Me. The nearer you are to Me, the better you can see My smile of approval. As you bask in this unconditional Love, you gain strength to break free from performance anxiety. Even if you slip into old habits again, you can turn back to Me anytime. My unfailing Love is always available to restore you, because you belong to Me forever.—Jesus10
Published on Anchor January 2021. Read by Reuben Ruchevsky.
Music by Michael Dooley.
1 Joshua 6:1–27.
2 1 Samuel 17.
3 “John Grisham marks 20th anniversary of ‘A Time to Kill,’” by Dennis Moore, USA Today, June 22, 2009.
4 Hebrews 11:6.
5 Adapted from a Just1Thing podcast, a Christian character-building resource for young people.
6 2 Corinthians 1:3–11; Romans 8:35–39.
7 Genesis 50:20.
8 2 Timothy 1:6–7.
10 Sarah Young, Jesus Lives (Thomas Nelson, 2009).