If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.
Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.
Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.
We’ve all heard these little sayings at some point in our lives. They’re the kind of feel-good quotes that help us focus on the end result and see past failure. They give us an inspirational boost to move forward. They make us feel that if we try a little harder or do a little bit better next time, we will surely succeed. The problem with these quotes is that they don’t address the importance of failure. Sure, they may teach us that failure is a necessary stepping stone to success. But they don’t actually help us understand how failure in itself plays a vital role in our emotional and spiritual lives. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think that we should persevere and have ambition. I believe that God has given us a race to run and that He is faithful to carry us through to the end. We know, according to Scripture, that failure and suffering allows us to see God’s purpose even more greatly.
…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:3-5. NIV.
But I believe that failure in itself is something to find truth in. I believe that, though the world may tell us that failure is for the weak, or that it only serves a purpose to push us harder towards reaching our dreams, we can learn more about ourselves and more about God in the losses and shortcomings of our lives.
Failure Points Us to Our Humanity
Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Galatians 3:3. NIV.
Sometimes we can forget that just as we were made right with God through faith, we are also grown through faith. I have been in seasons where I think that the more I do for God, the more I read my Bible or pray, the holier I become. But the truth is that our growth comes from God just as much as our salvation does. This is where failure becomes an important reminder in our lives that we are not perfect, we are not God. Sometimes we need that wakeup call. As Christians, we will never reach a point in our lives where we are doing all that we can for God. As humans, we will never be as successful, as hardworking, as relational, as loving, as creative as we might want to be. Failure teaches us the powerful lesson of humility. It bruises our ego and cuts into our pride. It reminds us that we are fallible beings, incapable of achieving perfection and garnering consistent praise.
This is an uncomfortable truth if we leave it at that. We don’t want to believe that failure will always be a present factor in our lives. That’s why it’s important that there’s another, more potent, object that failure points us towards.
Failure Points Us to God’s Perfection
Love…always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:7-8a. NIV.
Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished. 1 Chronicles 28:20. NIV.
Instead of letting failure drag you down, or simply ignoring it until you feel back on top of things again, cherish it as a reminder that you don’t have to be your own hero. We have a perfect, holy, righteous Savior in Christ Jesus! The more we see our own weaknesses and imperfections, the more we see how beautiful the love of God is in sending His Son to die for our sins. And God never fails. When we acknowledge our own failures, we are then able to look to God with more gratitude and joy. We cannot accomplish anything on our own and we rejoice in knowing that our God is a God who not only cares about saving us from eternal death and separation from Himself, but cares about our current needs. When we fail at work or in relationships, we can trust in a God who has felt the depths of suffering, yet overcame in glorious resurrection, to be the one who works through our shortcomings. It’s not enough to try harder or do better, we must look to the One who can move mountains and shake the earth, who has broken the chains of death, who will come again to redeem the earth.
Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail. Isaiah 51:6. NIV.