Listen: Morning Devotions with Chris Witts. (Airs 9am daily on Hope 103.2 and Inspire Digital.)
Have you ever been so afraid of failing at something that you decided not to try it at all?
Or has a fear of failure meant that you undermined your own efforts to avoid the possibility of a larger failure?
I think that most of us have probably experienced this at one time or another. The fear of failing can be immobilizing – it can cause us to do nothing, and therefore resist moving forward. But when we allow fear to stop our forward progress in life, we’re likely to miss some great opportunities along the way. And that is a shame.
The possibility of failure is not something we enjoy. We all fall short of what we ought to do. We fail in our marriages, in raising our children, in our friendships, in school, in our careers, in our church life—and often with devastating consequences. It’s no wonder, then, that at one time or another we all have a fear of failure.
It’s easy to find successful people who have experienced failure.
- Michael Jordan is widely considered to be one of the greatest basketball players of all time. And yet, he was cut from his high school basketball team because his coach didn’t think he had enough skill.
- Warren Buffet, one of the world’s richest and most successful businessmen, was rejected by Harvard University.
- Richard Branson, owner of the Virgin empire, is a high-school dropout.
Most of us will stumble and fall in life. Doors will get slammed in our faces, and we might make some bad decisions. But imagine if Michael Jordan had given up on his dream to play basketball when he was cut from that team. Imagine if Richard Branson had listened to the people who told him he’d never do anything worthwhile without a high-school diploma. When we go outside of our comfort zone, we feel scared. That’s pretty normal. But we don’t have to stay immobilised.
Avoid the Trap of People-Pleasing
I think we feel we have to please everyone. It’s called ‘people pleasing’. The Bible actually says, “The fear of man lays a snare” (Psalm 29:25). It’s a preoccupation of worrying about what others think of us. It’s about trying to impress people, or trying too much to please them. We fear being rejected or exposed.
But listen to the Bible when the brave warrior King David wrote, in Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
It’s virtually impossible to live up to the expectations of others. It’s far better to trust God. Without God as our driving ambition, we will end up feeling very disappointed, not content with life, cynical and bitter.
Fear is part of our make-up, making us feel insecure. Pessimism is fearing that whatever is hoped for will not happen. There is no confidence in the future. Pessimists look at challenges with a “glass-half-empty” mentality. They refuse to believe the best and eliminate positive expectations. This is a serious problem that comes from within the heart. The Psalmist cries out to himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Ps 42:5). His faith wrestles with his fear. There is a sense of despair for the future. Don’t be a pessimistic person!
Find the Silver Lining in Failures
I think the key to overcoming failure is to recognize that it can be beneficial. God wants us to learn from our failures. He especially wants us to learn not to make the same mistake again. We need to face our weaknesses and accept personal responsibility for our actions. You cannot correct a problem you are not willing to face. But, by the grace of God, you can turn your failure into victory.
Most of us have dreams that we never fully realize. That does not mean we have failed. Sometimes we overlook our successes because we focus all our attention on what we cannot do. There are many things you can do to the glory of God. But if you let failure discourage you, you will never accomplish what you might have if you had just kept on trying.
“Throughout the Bible God speaks to His people about refusing discouragement and acting out of faith and purpose”
All human beings fail. God is fully aware of your limitations. The Scripture says in Psalm 103:14 that God knows our limitations. He knows our frame is frail, and He remembers we came from dust.
Some of us think we have failed, when in fact we simply have not recognised our limitations. God has given you certain gifts and abilities with which to serve Him. You cannot do everything, but you can do something for God. Identify what you can do effectively, and concentrate your efforts on that. Stop worrying about what you cannot do.
Our natural response to failure can be to hide away and nurse our wounds, vowing never to try something again. We can also become very self-condemning, heaping negative thoughts upon ourselves. While incredibly tempting, all that does is start a vicious circle of failure, in which there is no room left for faith. Throughout the Bible God speaks to His people about refusing discouragement and acting out of faith and purpose.
Source: How Christians Can Move Beyond Failure, Rev Dr Stephen K. Awoniyi