Some of us feel like failures once in a while. Others feel like failures every single day of their lives. That must be a heavy weight to carry.
- What’s the point? I always screw things up.
- I’d look for a job if I weren’t going to get fired in the first two weeks.
- I’d go out to the party, but no-one would like me anyway. No-one wants to talk to me
- I feel like a failure and always will. Why bother trying to succeed at anything?
Does that sound familiar? Some of us tend to see the negative side of everything. That’s not a helpful recipe for happiness. Look at big business. Sometimes they turn failure around.
Do you remember that when Coke II was introduced to the public in 1984, consumers did not embrace the new taste. Acknowledging the failed innovation, Coca-Cola immediately began selling its original formula again―because, why change a good thing? What some outsiders might view as a failure, the company sought to embrace and learn from.
Today, Coca-Cola is the world’s third most valuable brand. It is possible to bounce back. Are there times when you feel like a failure? It could be you say to yourself, I’m a perfectionist and a chronic ‘way-too-high-of-a-goal’ setter, and that alone is a recipe for a disaster. Some of us are too hard on ourselves and set impossible personal goals. And when we don’t reach the goal, we crumble and set ourselves up as a failure.
Failing Is Not Being a Failure
There’s a big difference between experiencing a success, not experiencing a success, experiencing a failure and being a failure. And I think this is a distinction that too many of us forget sometimes. Just because something (or many things!) didn’t work out, does not mean that you have failed, and it does not mean that you are a failure.
Even if someone else has accused you of being a failure, don’t take that as the last word. There is always a way through, even if it looks bleak and horrible. In Jesus day, many saw him as a great failure. Where was the great warrior Saviour who would destroy the Roman Empire and establish a kingdom, as he was promising to do?
In Matthew 13 we read of the time Jesus returns to his hometown to preach and teach. Perhaps he thought it would be good to come home to his family and friends. But no—that didn’t happen. Matthew says, “The people were very unhappy because of what he was doing” (Matthew 13:57). In their eyes he had failed. How disappointing that was!
I want to ask you, have you thought that failure might be a good thing? Unusual, yes. But listen. Life can be a great teacher. My failings may end up bringing me closer to God, and help transform my life. I may end up a better person. Jesus Christ can bring you peace of heart and mind in the middle of a failure, because he loves and cares for you unlike anybody else.
We All Have Different Skills
Think on it this way: I may not be skilled in one area—but I’m very skilled in others! If I was to make a list of things I’m not very good at, it would be a long list. But you know what? All of that is OK! God didn’t create all of us to be skilled in every single thing. That’d be silly and redundant! Instead, he created each of us to be skilled in a wide variety of unique and interesting things so we’d have to work together to get things done.
The fact that I’m not skilled in those areas doesn’t mean I’m a failure. It just means that I’ve never bothered to take the time and energy to really learn them because those areas aren’t where my talents lie. I’d rather spend time and energy on other things. I think the big lesson is that my successes and failures do not define who I am.
There’s a pretty big difference between who we are and what we do. We are the children of God. What we do well, that depends on the day. And Jesus told his disciples, and for us today, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15 – NIV).
In the love of God, we cannot fail; we can only make mistakes and mistakes have already been covered by the death of Jesus on the cross. This kind of love helps us to relax about ourselves and our lives. In mistakes, we understand that we are still valued by the Lord. That is what empowers us to overcome failure as a negative construct and move on to better things in life.
Everything God does is relational. He’s bent on turning every circumstance around so that we discover the height, depth, length and breadth of his love.
We are a work in progress. No one condemns the artist of an unfinished picture. Instead we look at it like God does, loving it for what it is today and picturing what it could become. We wonder, we imagine and we are excited by the possibilities!
God is still working in your life, even if you don’t realise what’s happening. Don’t let failure have the last word today.