Failure is a word we all avoid at all costs. We do everything in our power to succeed in life. Yet we are our greatest critic. When we fail, we think it’s the end of it and that we have lost our chance. But our failure is not final. There is still life after a failed exam, not reaching a goal or hitting the mark.
In medicine, when a patient’s internal organ no longer functions as it should, we call it organ (kidney, heart) failure. When electricity is cut off, there is a power failure because of a temporary cessation of function.
In school, if the grades do not meet the expected standard, the student fails the subject. In applying for jobs, the applicant who did not meet the mark failed to get the job. But there is one definition of failure that is personal. It is the failure of not doing what people expect of you.
Failing as a Wife
People close to me know my story. They know how I struggled with God’s command in Ephesians 5:22, which tells wives to ‘submit to your husbands, as to the Lord.’
“Seriously? Me, submit to my husband? That’s not going to happen. Nope!”
But the Lord dealt with my pride and disobedience. He allowed me to see the effects of not submitting to my husband. My husband felt disrespected. He did not step up as the leader because I was too dominant. I wanted him to lead our family, but my disobedience got in his way.
Again, the Lord and my husband were very gracious to me. I learned that I need to take a step back, even 100 steps back and let my husband lead. It took a leap of faith on my part to submit. It was not wholehearted submission at first. I took small steps and sometimes took the reins back.
When I saw how the Lord slowly changed my husband was the time I surrendered fully. It was not because I saw my husband as a leader worthy of my respect. I surrendered because I finally realized that God wanted me to surrender first to His will for me.
Failing as a Mom
When I was a young homeschooling mom, I unconsciously set standards for my children, especially our first-born child. I expected him to meet ‘my’ standards, which were too much for him. As a result, I was unkind to him and sometimes mean.
Not too long did I realize that I was failing as a mother to him. I hated myself every day because I saw the results of my attitude towards him. This realization brought me to my knees and asked forgiveness and restoration from the Lord and from our son.
Slowly, the Lord taught me kindness and patience. But the process was not free of setbacks. The anguish and guilt crept in when I thought I was doing okay. The enemy has his way of pointing fingers back at you. He will deceive you and feed you with lies.
Despite my failure as a mother, the Lord showed me how that He is above my mistakes. He alone can work in the life of my children.
Failure as a Christ follower
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away, behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
When I became a born-again Christian, I knew that I have become a new creature. I am a new person, spiritually speaking. The old things that I used to enjoy no longer bring me happiness. The sinful habits have also disappeared. I am living a new life following Jesus, or so I thought.
But my negative attitudes were still obvious. I failed to surrender these unChrist-like attitudes to my Lord. I thought I could get it out of my system on my own. The Lord had to shake me to the core for me to get my act together. I needed to fail as a Christ – follower. And that was the lowest point in my Christian life.
When I came to terms with my failings as a Christian, I stopped serving in church. It was of my own volition. I believed I was no longer a good witness for Christ. My testimony ruined Christ’s name. I am no longer fit the serve the King of Kings.
Failure Has a Purpose
There I was, doing anything and everything not to make mistakes, but I still did. In the grand scheme of things, God knew I needed to be broken. He saw me fail, but He was with me. He allowed me to fail.
Failure taught me to humble myself. I needed to admit that I am helpless to heal myself. I needed Christ to heal me completely that is why I joined a recovery program last year. After going through 17 weeks of a roller coaster of emotions, I realized that I needed to fail. It had to happen for three
- To understand that my experiences carved my character
- To accept who I am, with my strengths and weaknesses
- To embrace the truth that God shows his love for me by persistently molding my character (even if it hurts me)
I knew my childhood and life experiences formed both the good and bad attitudes. Most of the bad attitudes were a way for me to protect myself. Wrong beliefs about myself led to my thoughts and behavior.
Failure Creates Self-doubt
After falling flat on my face because of shame, I had to get up. I need to start again, but I have to make amends to the people I have hurt. And I did, sincerely.
I took a while for me to recover. I am still coping with the effects of my sin. The shame of my behavior haunts me until today. Recently, I heard that to a few people, I am still labeled as the ‘Bad Christian’.
“Wow, Lord! Really? I am still a bad person in their eyes?”
Hearing that was heartbreaking. It’s as if I was reliving the past. I took a deep breath after that and removed the thought from my head. But it continued to play over and over my head for the next weeks.
This is where Satan’s lies came in. “See, you will never recover from this shame. You are marked forever. Why don’t you just quit?
My heart cried out to God. “Lord, will I ever get over this? Will I never escape that past mistake?”
One night while I was ironing my husband’s work clothes, I tuned in to the podcast by Emily P Freeman of The Next Right Thing. What she said brought me to tears.
Refuse to rehearse your failures again. Emily P Freeman
This has become a habit for years. I keep replaying regrettable scenes in my head. Yeah, that’s how I over think and it doesn’t do me any good. Most of the time, especially when I am weak, I succumb to Satan’s lies. I give in to self-doubt. I keep forgetting that the Lord has forgiven me, and no one can change that.
Failure is not Final
I am thankful that I have my husband and a handful of good friends who supported me. They have loved me despite my mistakes. They have forgiven me and accepted me again. This event also proved to me who my true friends are. I knew that they always had my back and I had theirs too.
Many months later, I know that I have ‘mellowed’ a bit. I hated the old me and I don’t want to go back to the way I was before. So every day I ask the Lord to help me be kind or merciful or gracious. He gives me the grace to press on
Last Sunday’s preaching was the cherry on top. Pastor Vince Burke, whose book I am currently reading, said, “Your failure isn’t final. God can still use you in the ministry.”
After weeks of feeling low, the Lord lifted my spirit again. I have to keep reminding myself that God has forgiven me. I have repented from my old ways. And by the grace of God, living a new life with a resuscitated heart that is pleasing to him.