For 28 years Abraham Lincoln experienced one failure after another. His business failed, he had a nervous breakdown aged 27, and lost nomination for Vice-President of the USA.
Yet despite setbacks, in 1860 he went down in history as one of America’s greatest presidents. So, it seems that success is not the absence of failure. In other words, failure need not be final, just because we fail sometimes in our achievements or daily life.
Notable people, like Walt Disney and Albert Einstein, knew the setback of failure. No matter how badly or how many times a person fails, he or she is never a failure, providing they get up just one more time. It’s all about having a goal and determination to achieve that goal. Faith in a living God allows us to view life differently, where we can say, Even when I fail, God can restore my confidence and renew my hope. With him I am never a failure.
There’s a German proverb that says, He who has never tasted what is bitter does not know what is sweet. I’m sure you’ve felt times of distress or failure, but like most issues in life we can learn lessons from the downside of life.
The best selling book Gone With the Wind was turned down by 38 publishers in a row. But the 39th publisher that author Margaret Mitchell tried, turned the manuscript into one of the best-selling books of all time.
God gives a hand to those down on their luck, gives a fresh start to those ready to quit. Psalm 145:14 – The Message.
Sir Edmund Hillary, who together with Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay were the first men to climb Mount Everest, failed the first time he tried to do so, but he refused to give up. He said, “Mount Everest, you beat me the first time, but I’ll beat you the next time because you’ve grown all you are going to grow. But I’m still growing”. On 29 May 1953 he successfully scaled the mountain.
Perhaps today you feel like a total failure. Everyone at some time feels the sting of failure, and that’s hard because we want to be successful. We strive for success because it gives us a sense of identity and if we don’t reach the success we aim for, we feel like a failure, and it hurts. It affects how we view ourselves.
Failure is Like a Hammer
We cannot always avoid failing, but we can choose how to react. It’s like a hammer—it can knock down, or it can build up. And despite our best efforts, we will experience failure sometime during life. For some, failure is the end of the road, a moment that they never overcome. For others, failure is a setback that offers opportunity to reflect, not only our human frailty, but also on God’s goodness. Because, did you know that in God’s economy, failure is never final?
Robert Schuller wrote a book called Success is Never Ending. Failure is Never Final, and that title echoes what the psalmist said in Psalm 145:13-14: “The Lord is faithful to His promises; he is merciful in all his acts. He helps those who are in trouble; he lifts those who have fallen”. What a wonderful statement of hope for those who feel they will never recover from failure.
God is with us and he can pick up the hammer of our failure and use it in a different way—to his glory and purpose. Seen through his eyes, our failure can be his way of bringing discipline and order to our lives, and shaping our character. He is more interested in building character in us than giving us a good, comfortable care-free life.
The true measure of success or failure is our relationship to God. You can be highly effective in your career, but still be a failure in your spiritual life. God is more interested in how you love him, not what you can do or be. There’s a great verse from the Old Testament that says:
those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary;
they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:31).
It’s a mistake to focus on failure—Proverbs 23:7 reminds us: “As a man thinks within himself, so he is”. In other words, people’s beliefs will ultimately affect their behaviour. What you let your mind dwell on, is what you become. Don’t dwell on failures, because that will have a negative influence on your life.