Dear Failure, My Greatest Teacher
Written by Phylicia Masonheimer | March 19, 2019
I have always hated bowling. I couldn’t put my finger on why for years… until my most recent bowling date with my husband. I realized that my struggle with bowling was rooted in my deep resentment for public failure! I’m not good at bowling, so stepping up in front of all my friends to publicly fail was NOT on my list of fun things to do.
But bowling isn’t the only place I publicly fail. I fail with my words. I fail with my thoughts. I fail in my relationships. My failure is sometimes invisible to others, but it’s always visible to God and those closest to me.
Failure is Not the End
But my failure – my sin, my selfishness, my inability to be who I am made to be in Christ – is not the end of my story, and it’s not the end of yours. Failure teaches us our own weakness, but it also points to the way out.
Paul addressed this in his second letter to the church at Corinth when discussing his own weakness. He had asked God to take away a personal weakness, a thorn in his flesh, which God did not remove. Instead, God said: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9) God’s power was not going to be proved through Paul’s SUCCESS but through Paul’s WEAKNESS. This is so counter to everything we think, but it’s such evidence of God’s grace toward us. God could work only through our obedience (which is the way to peace and righteousness) but because He is a loving and faithful God, He also redeems our failure. When we confess, repent, and turn back to him, failure is not the end of our story.
God Acknowledges That We Will Fail
God knows we will fail in this life. He knows our humanity. Yet He still offers us a chance to make a choice. When you really think about this, it’s such a beautiful grace! God, who could control and dictate everything we do, instead opens His hands to allow for failure. Though failure is not what He wants for us, the fact that He allows us the choice shows how loving He is. He wants us to follow Him of our own volition, like any good Father would.
Psalm 73:26 says, “Though my flesh and my heart may fail, God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Our bodies and our spirits may fail us and God. But when we turn back to Him, He strengthens us and satisfies us. He KNOWS failure is human, but offers hope for those who return. This is how failure teaches us! It teaches us to turn back to God instead of running from Him into further disobedience.
Grace is Sufficient
Failure will come knocking again, and what will we do with it? For me, remembering that line from God to Paul: My grace is sufficient – is my lifeline in moments of discouragement. God’s grace is what holds me up. Not my success. Not my status. Not my reputation. Not my lack of public failure. God’s grace.
And when your eyes shift from your failure to what it’s teaching you about God, suddenly… it’s not as discouraging as it was in first light.