The Gift of Failure
Download Audio (12.3MB)
Learning from our experiences
Sometimes God uses life’s disappointments to draw us closer to Himself or teach us patience and trust. He also may use them to redirect us toward His will. Don’t let failure or disappointment cut you off from God or make you think the future is hopeless. When God closes one door, He often opens another—if we seek it.
The apostle Paul said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”1 He wrote those words while in prison, his plans disrupted and his future uncertain. The reason he could say them, however, was because he had learned to see disappointment and failure from God’s perspective, and to trust the future into His hands. May this be true of us.
When life turns against you, let the psalmist’s prayer become yours: “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths.”2—Billy Graham
Failing is a blessing
The fact is, everyone fails in life, but it is a gift if you don’t give up and are willing to learn, improve and grow because of it. Failure often serves as a defining moment, a crossroad on the journey of your life. It gives you a test designed to measure your courage, perseverance, commitment and dedication. Are you a pretender who gives up after a little adversity or a contender who keeps getting up after getting knocked down?
Failure provides you with a great opportunity to decide how much you really want something. Will you give up? Or will you dig deeper, commit more, work harder, learn and get better? … On the other hand, sometimes failure causes you to take a different path that is better for you in the long run. … Sometimes we have to lose a goal to find our destiny. Sometimes failure helps us see that we want something else.
Whatever path failure guides you toward, it is always meant to give you a big serving of humble pie that builds your character, gives you perspective, grows your faith, and makes you appreciate your success later on. If you didn’t fail, you wouldn’t become the kind of person who ultimately succeeds.
So the next time you fail, don’t let it keep you from the life you were born to live and the future you were meant to create. See failure as a test, a teacher, a detour to a better outcome and an event that builds a better you.
Failure is not meant to be final and fatal. It is not meant to define you. It is meant to refine you to be all that you are meant to be.
When you see failure as a blessing instead of a curse, you will turn the gift of failure into a stepping stone that leads to the gift of success.—Jon Gordon3
God’s fabulous flops
Was Elijah’s ministry defeated when he ran from Jezebel after his great victory on Mt. Carmel? Was his great bravery there scuttled by his cowardice in the wilderness? After slaying the hundreds of false prophets, here he was running from a mere woman. What a picture! The great, brave, statuesque prophet, towering above all the people in the might and power of God on top of Mt. Carmel, calling down fire from heaven, then afterwards running from Queen Jezebel. Here was the prophet of God afraid of a woman! Didn’t this defeat his whole ministry? Didn’t this undermine his entire witness? Didn’t this prove he wasn’t such a great prophet after all? Didn’t this cause him to lose his following? Or was God trying to show him something that was going to make him a better prophet, a humbler prophet, who would come back unafraid even of the king, much less the queen?
After Elijah found out that God was not just in the fire, the thunder, and the earthquake, this man of fire and thunder became a meek man of the still small voice of God.4 He’d been great on doom and destruction and judgment, now he was learning the slow, patient process of feeding and leading the sheep.
Wasn’t it a disgrace and a terrible blow to His cause for the great leader of the prophets of doom, Jeremiah, to be hung in stocks before the temple door, so his brethren could spit in his face—or be dropped in the mud to his armpits by his enemies, so that his dear friend, Ebed-melech, had to come and get him out? And wasn’t that finally the most scandalous of all, that he should land in jail branded a traitor and a criminal, disloyal to his nation and his own people?5 Yes, but not to God! It was all a part of God’s plan to keep Jeremiah humble and close to the Lord, utterly dependent on God.
Did God make a mistake? Or was He trying to show that He can use anything—even you—by giving us such encouraging examples of His successful failures, His fabulous flops, His daring dropouts who dared to trust Him in spite of themselves and give Him all the glory because they knew it had to be God!—David Brandt Berg
Moving beyond failure
The road to failure is usually paved with good intentions. It’s at the end of this road, when we’re out of our own resources, that we meet with God’s abundant grace.
Peter, though well-intentioned, had failed Jesus several times. At the last Passover Supper, Jesus wanted to wash his feet, but he protested, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Peter quickly reverses his response: “Then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well.”
Shortly after, Jesus tells His disciples they would all fall away on account of Him. In his usual outspoken manner, Peter replies, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”6 Jesus then tells him before the rooster crows that night he will have disowned Him three times.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, despite Jesus’ repeated requests to pray with Him, Peter was too tired and slept. When the soldiers came, he wasn’t prepared. In an effort to protect Jesus, he hastily drew his sword and cut off the ear of Malchus, one of the soldiers. Because he had failed to pray, he had failed to exercise self-control. Jesus rebuked him, and Peter fails to say he’s sorry. He then fails to remain loyal, and as Jesus said, denied Him three times in one night.
If we’re not living in a prayerful place, we’re not prepared for coping with unexpected turmoil and tragedies. Most of us can click in at some point with Peter’s failures. We come out of an overinflated sense of our own ability to live for Christ, and then discover we can’t. But Jesus doesn’t leave Peter in that desolate place. He teaches and reteaches a principle that we must never move away from. Jesus can only do through us what we allow Him to do to us. “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
Recovery for Peter did not mean perfection. It means acknowledging where he is in his life, and being realistic in his assessment of who he is. His reinstatement does not come because of his strength, but because of his brokenness. We step into the will of God by acknowledging our love of Christ. We are loved to love. We are strengthened to strengthen, and having moved beyond failure, we do it in the power of Jesus. … Failure leads us to that beautiful discovery that when we are faithless, Christ is faithful.—Charles Price
The soul-making process
We know that moral character gets formed through hardship, through overcoming obstacles, through enduring despite difficulties. Courage, for example, would be impossible in a world without pain. The apostle Paul testified to this refining quality of suffering when he wrote that “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Let's face it: we learn from the mistakes we make and the suffering they bring. The universe is a soul-making machine, and part of that process is learning, maturing, and growing through difficult and challenging and painful experiences. The point of our lives in this world isn't comfort, but training and preparation for eternity. Scripture tells us that even Jesus “learned obedience through suffering”—and if that was true for him, why wouldn't it be even more true for us?—Peter Kreeft7
It takes great faith to face what looks like failure and defeat in some area and still keep standing on My Word, on My promises. You sometimes feel weary‚ exhausted, discouraged, and can't see the victory or even the potential for victory. Virtually every great man or woman of faith throughout history has had to face those times—sometimes for many years, sometimes until the point of death. Yet no matter how long the struggle, living for Me and holding on to your faith is the ultimate victory.
How do you think the martyrs in the Colosseum of Rome felt? My promises must have looked like flat failures in man's eyes in those situations. Yet the martyrs won some of the greatest victories of all time as they simply and humbly remained faithful to the end.8
You may often look defeated in your own eyes, but your commitment in holding on to Me, even when everything looks lost and contrary to logic and reason, is the greatest victory of all.—Jesus, speaking in prophecy
Keep on believing, don’t ever give up! Keep on believing, don’t be discouraged. Keep on believing, don’t quit. Keep on keeping on. Keep on holding on to His promises. Keep on standing on the promises, and whatever you do, keep on going for Jesus.
Don’t ever quit, don’t ever give up! Don’t despair. Don’t lose faith just because you feel like you’ve missed the last bus. Keep on waiting on the Lord a little longer, and He’s bound to send you another bus, another chance, another opportunity.
If you really want to find His will, He won’t fail to send along His bus of opportunity to pick you up and lift you up and lift your spirits and encourage you and inspire you and strengthen you and heal you and carry you along in the power of His Spirit to the glorious victory of your heavenly destination. Keep on believing!—David Brandt Berg
Published on Anchor in October 2014. Read by Simon Peterson.
1 Philippians 4:11 NIV.
2 Psalm 25:4 NIV.
3 Courtesy of Guideposts. For full article, see: http://www.guideposts.org/inspiration/inspirational-stories/motivational-stories/the-gift-of-failure.
4 1 Kings 19:11–13.
5 Jeremiah 20:2, 38:6–13, 37:11–15.
6 Matthew 26:33 NIV.
7 As quoted by Lee Strobel in The Case for Faith (Zondervan, 2000).
8 Romans 8:36–37.