Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley
There is an anonymous old adage that dates back to around 1832 which goes something like this: “He who never makes any effort, never risks any failure, nor achieves any success.” Old or not, it’s the truth. Be it spiritual, moral or material failures, the risks increase with our level of involvement. Perhaps a former US President, Theodore Roosevelt, said it best, “The man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.”
I am pretty sure that everyone would like to do well in life ” spiritually, morally and fiscally. How many people do you know who actually set out to fail? And yet, we rarely succeed in anything without numerous disappointments. Live long enough and you are bound to taste the bitter tears of failure a time or three. To my way of thinking, it’s all a part of the master plan. Yes, I believe in intelligent design.
Have you ever put your whole heart and soul into an endeavor only to realize it’s never going to work out the way you had planned? I sure have. In the end, we learn to accept the letdowns and chalk them up to experience. Listen, I have failed more times than I’d like to admit. Some of my fiascos were just little slip-ups along life’s way, while others were, shall we say, more intense. Okay, a few really rocked my world for a season. What I have gleaned is this: real success is built upon the stepping stones of failure. Someone told me that failure is a bruise ” not a tattoo. I like that.
What about you? Ever experienced a failure that left you afraid to try again? You know, feeling like the old get up and go, just got up and went. We humans are often inclined to wallow in self-pity when we fail. After all, it hurts when we flop. Why chance a repeat performance? It’s a whole lot easier to say “Well, I almost made it, gonna play it safe from now on”, than to face a new and perhaps an even more difficult challenge. The fear of failure can crush our motivation, paralyze our potential, and even drive us toward despair (i.e. – a serious case of the blues). That is why some people respond to failure by retreating to a perceived comfort zone. Sorry, you can run, run, run, but you cannot hide from failure forever.
The Roman author, naturalist and philosopher, Pliny the Elder (AD 23″79), once observed that an Ostrich, when frightened, will sometimes attempt to hide from the danger by “thrusting their head and neck into a nearby bush, believing that the whole of their body is concealed.” How silly that must look.
Hiding from our failures is equally pointless. It’s like trying to conceal your naked body by wrapping just your head in a towel. You’re still naked, and only you can’t see it. Face your fiascos head on; it’s the only unfailing path to recovery from the sting of a letdown. Incidentally, ostriches do not bury their heads in sand to avoid danger. That’s a myth.
Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.” – C. S. Lewis
There is a passage in the Bible’s Older Testament book of Job which reads,
1 “How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble!” (Job 14:1)
In other words, humanity is frail, life is short and you can expect that into every lifetime a little rain must fall. (Longfellow)
I remember my early days as a devotee of Jesus, that great teacher and Liberator. Somehow I came to believe that following Him imparted an immunity to failure for everyone who had a personal relationship with the Almighty. By “Faith” we would simply make good confessions until all the bad stuff goes away and only good things come our way. Make no mistake, Christianity is indeed the great confession and believers should declare with their mouth what they believe in their heart. But I have now lived long enough to realize that life is full of woe, even for those of us who have chosen to put our absolute trust in God. The promise of a Divine redemption and our expectation of timeless joy in a future world is no guarantee that our life here on spaceship earth will always be free from problems, sorrow, and, yes, even failure.
Have you ever read the Scriptures for the sheer human drama recorded on its pages? It doesn’t take a degreed theologian to discover that many members of the Biblical Hall of Fame experienced failure at one time or another. Abraham, Moses, and David all stand out in my mind as having blown it at some point in their lives. Examples?
- Abraham failed more than once on his journey by choosing to follow his own path instead of trusting in the Creator who after first making Himself known through a supernatural visitation, gave Abraham specific instructions to follow. He had even entering into a sworn agreement with Abraham (covenant) promising He would make him great.
- Moses failed when he got a bit overzealous (ahead of the Divine plan) and murdered an Egyptian in his anger. As a result, he was forced to flee into the wilderness. Years later, as the leader of a now liberated people, he took matters into his own hands once again when, against the instructions of YHWH (pronounced Yahweh), he struck a certain rock a second time (again in his anger) when he was specifically told to only “speak to the rock”.
- When David was King of Israel and the military commander-in chief of her armies, his rightful place was with his troops on the field of battle. Where was he? Home committing adultery with Bathsheba and then orchestrating the murder of her solider husband, Uriah the Hittite, in battle. David paid dearly for that mistake.
So, what happened to them over the long run? Eventually they all recovered from their failures, learned valuable lessons along the way and even went on to be successful both in life and in the service of the great Jehovah. Here’s the bottom line: God knows we’re all going to miss the mark every once in a while. Even so, He stands by us and is there to help as we work through our failures.
Being human means you will make mistakes. And you will make mistakes, because failure is God’s way of moving you in another direction.” – Oprah Winfrey
So you haven’t been very successful as of late? Failures are often great opportunities to do some deep soul searching. Who knows what you’ll discover. Perhaps a particular shortcoming or weakness of character needs correction. Maybe a new road or a fresh vision is in your future. Only time will tell ” so be patient.
What’s that? You’ll never succeed? Nonsense. Look, I’m not your mother, but you need to stop with the pity party, Okay? You can pick up the pieces and move on ” especially if you will let the Creator help you. Please do not give yourself over to the chains of hopelessness and despair.
The lessons we learn from our failures are often the formula for our future successes. Disappointments help us to recognize that we all need help, particularly from the Greater One who designed us in the first place. The Liberator Jesus put it like this:
5 “I am the Vine and you are the branches. Get your life from Me. Then I will live in you and you will give much fruit. You can do nothing without Me.” (John 15:5 NLV)
Let me tell you a personal story. One day, (many years ago) I was teaching my then young son the fine art of catching a baseball in our back yard. He greeted each successful catch with a broad smile. His delight brought me great joy. Of course, he missed the ball a lot too and those near catches evoked his whimsical frown ” more like a puckered pout. My boy did not like missing as much as he liked catching. Who does? Then it happened. A high fly bounced off the tip of his glove striking him on the cheekbone. The impact wasn’t life threatening, but it shook his confidence a bit. Disappointment and failure seem to have a way of doing that. I still remember the startled look as he buried his face in the glove and stood motionless on the grass.
“Are you OK?” I yelled, my voice cracking with fatherly concern. “Yes”, came a weak, unconvincing reply. And then, with his face still covered up by the glove, little Joe began to cry. So I ran toward him, touched with the feelings of his pain and I held him in my arms. “It’s all right son”, I said, “You tried.” Mistakes are bad enough, but this one hurt. He cried for a few moments and drying his tears I said, “Let’s get back to the game.” Without hesitation he replied, “No thanks, dad”, as he ran off to take up a new, less threatening activity.
Yes indeed, sometimes in the face of distress and failure, it’s hard to try again ” especially as a child. But eventually we all must grow up and learn to do just that.
Believe it or not, Christianity is not about good people getting better. If anything, it is good news for bad people coping with their failures.” – Tullian Tchividjian
You know, I’ve been thinking about this guy named Peter who was an original follower of the man called Jesus. You can read all about him in the Bible’s Newer Testament. Peter tried really, really hard to be a good follower of the master. I’m sure he truly wanted to please that perplexing man from Nazareth. Quite often though, he would do what he thought was right only to be reprimanded for it. Peter had an overabundance of self–confidence which often manifest in the form of foot in mouth disease. Ever had that?
Perhaps the low point in Peter’s life came on the night Jesus was arrested and tortured. First, he cut off some guys’ ear. Later, when people in the lynch mob recognized him as a friend and supporter of the Nazarene, fearing for his own life and with cursing on his lips, Peter denied he even knew Jesus. Some would say that at that moment he was a total failure. What a disloyal looser. Fair-weather friend. Coward. Yes sir, that’s what some would say. But, not the otherworldly visitor called Jesus.
According to the Biblical narrative, Jesus was executed on a bunch of trumped up charges, but a few days later, amazingly, He came back to life. There were enough witnesses to prove that fact in any court of law. Soon thereafter, Jesus materialized in front of Peter on a Galilean beach where He confronted his friend the “failure” like this:
15 “Simon Peter, son of John, do you love me more than these others?” “Yes, Lord,” he replied, “you know that I am your friend.”
16 “Then feed my lambs,” returned Jesus. Then he said for the second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” returned Peter. “You know that I am your friend.”
17 “Then care for my sheep,” replied Jesus. Then for the third time, Jesus spoke to him and said, “Simon, son of John, are you my friend?” Peter was deeply hurt because Jesus’ third question to him was “Are you my friend?”, and he said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I am your friend!” 18 “Then feed my sheep,” (John 21:15-18a Phillips)
Yea, Peter had a big mouth. Sometimes he played the fool. Once he acted like a coward. He even failed under pressure. But on a lonely stretch of Judean beach, a resurrected liberator stopped by to see a dejected fisherman. In a few short comforting moments, Peter was humbled, forgiven, chosen, called and commissioned by the only one in the universe who really matters ” the Intelligent Designer. Peter? He went on to do great things.
You say you’re a failure? Me too. Hey, it is okay, we’re in good company! Just ask Peter. Maybe you’re ready to do what he did…trust in what Jesus came to this earth to tell us. I have. Sweet success!
Love ya’ man!
Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher and a rabbid Coastal Junkie®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656