We don’t have to live many years before we experience it. Failure comes to all of us. The important thing is not so much determining to be perfect and never fail again (something we will never attain in this life) but taking what we learn in the process of our failure and using it to grow stronger.
C.S. Lewis said, concerning failure:
“Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement.”
A few weeks ago our daughter sent us a video of our little granddaughter taking her first steps. A smile lit up her sweet little face as she took a few tentative steps, but the smile quickly faded as she began to tip backwards. Getting her balance, she continued to make her wobbly way down the hallway. Her little legs began moving faster than her walking skill and down she went on her well padded bottom. Without missing a beat, she got up and continued her unsteady journey, smile back in place.
There would be a whole lot of adults getting around on their hands and knees if we gave up the first time we failed to walk well. It may seem a silly analogy, but somewhere along the line we tend to go from persistent courage to shame and despair when we fail. It’s true our failures have bigger consequences as we get older, but they also have the potential to make us stronger and wiser and to draw us closer to God.
Many years ago I read this quote by Ruth Graham: “Discouragement is the devil’s calling card.” I have seen the truth of this proven over and over again in my own life. If we fail at something we believe is right and good - especially something we feel we have been called to do - our tendency is to simply give up. We feel paralyzed by the fear of failing again and the shame causes us to turn away from the Lord.
Nothing could make the enemy of our souls happier. He has shamed us into giving up and running back to the places we feel comfortable. Even worse, he has succeeded in keeping us from taking our failures to the Lord where he knows we will find forgiveness and grace. God wants nothing more than to take the broken pieces of the mess we’ve made and use them to grow something good and strong in us if we will let Him. As Pastor Doug said, “We become stronger and wiser when we learn from our failures.”
We received another video from our daughter a week or so later. With that sweet smile that is so much a part of her lighting up her face, our little granddaughter walked steadily toward the camera. We watched with joy as she practically ran from room to room. Her determination had certainly paid off.
The Lord has a good plan for each of us. It doesn’t come with a guarantee that we will never fail, but it does come with the promise that He will use even our failures to do something of great value in our lives.
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
For the Lord upholds him with His hand.”
Psalm 37: 23,24