March 2, 2011
Failure is Not Final
"At least there is hope for a tree. If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail" (Job 14:7, NIV).
Friend to Friend
I have never met a single person whose goal in life was to fail but failure is a reality of life. The key to success is not avoiding failure; it is learning how to handle failure.
· Beethoven's music teacher once told him that he was a hopeless composer.
· Abraham Lincoln campaigned for a seat in the Illinois General Assembly and failed. He then opened a general store which failed after only a few months.
· Walt Disney was fired by the editor of a newspaper for lacking creativity.
· The Ford Motor Company was Henry Ford's third business. The first two didn't work out.
· A teacher told Thomas Edison that he was too stupid to learn anything.
· Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times.
I remember the first time I failed a test. I was in first grade and my teacher, Mrs. Martin, decided to test us on the names of the states and their capitols. We had been studying them for what seemed like an eternity. I did not like Geography and tended to daydream my way through class. Why did I need to know the names of states I would probably never visit? And what was the big deal about state capitols? As far as I could tell from the pictures in my Geography book, they all looked pretty much the same to me - boring.
Even though I did not like Geography, I had to make 100 on the Geography test. Why? I was only six-years-old, but I knew the unspoken rule that failing a test meant I was a failure.
When Mrs. Martin told us to clear our desks except for one pencil, I panicked. A quick glance at the assignment board revealed nothing. The look of confusion on the faces of my classmates told me that they were just as clueless as I was.
"We are having a little test to see how you are doing in Geography," Mrs. Martin explained. I had three problems with her statement. First, there is no such thing as a "little" test. Second, no one had said anything about having a test, and third, I did not know the names of the states and their capitols. When I voiced my complaints, Mrs. Martin smiled and said it was a "pop quiz."
Sidebar: That might have been the moment when I decided to become an elementary school teacher, vowing to never subject my students to the terror of "pop quizzes."
My stomach dropped and I broke out in a cold sweat. My mind raced as I frantically searched for my Geography book. Maybe I could learn the names of a capitol or two while she handed out the tests. "No books allowed," Mrs. Martin warned. I was doomed.
When the blank outline of the United States appeared on my desk, I dissolved into tears. Mrs. Martin immediately dropped to her knees beside my desk and gathered me in her arms. She asked the student teacher to take over as she gently ushered me out of the classroom and in to the nurse's office next door.
When I finally stopped crying, Mrs. Martin said, "Honey, what is wrong?" I could not believe my ears. "I don't know the names of the states or their capitols," I wailed out what seemed to be a ridiculously obvious explanation. "Do you know some of them?" she asked. I thought for a moment. "I know some of them but not all of them and that means I'll fail the test," I responded. "Why don't you just do your best and see what happens," she said. I did my best … and I still failed the test.
Guess what? The world kept spinning. I passed first grade and elementary school with flying colors, graduated from high school with honors, attended college on a music and academic scholarship and eventually became an elementary teacher. And I failed a lot along the way. So did a lot of people in the Bible. Adam and Eve blatantly disobeyed God and then lied about their sin. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then plotted the murder of her husband. Peter bragged about his commitment to Jesus but denied Him - not once - but three times. In fact, it is hard to find Biblical characters who did not fail at some point, but those who learned from their failure and used it as a tool of growth were often used by God to accomplish great things.
I have come to believe that failure is a necessary part of our growth and maturity as a follower of Jesus Christ. Failure can interpret the unconditional love and forgiveness of God like nothing else can - if we let it. Desperation can be our friend if it makes us crave God and long to see His power unleashed in our lives. Failure is not final but God's grace is.
Father, I come to You, imperfect and flawed, knowing that I have failed You. Forgive me for the sin in my life. Thank You for Your love and mercy that covers that sin. Help me learn the lesson that each failure holds and teach me how to apply that lesson in my daily life. I celebrate the hope and fresh start I find in You.
In Jesus' name,
Now It's Your Turn
Read Romans 8:28. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (NIV). How does this verse apply to the way we view and respond to failure?
What failure are you facing today? Filter that failure through Romans 8:28 and look for the lesson and seed of victory it holds.
Read Job 14:7 (NIV) "At least there is hope for a tree: if it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail." How can you apply this verse to the failures in your life?
More from the Girlfriends
I love how God transforms tragedy into triumph … failure into success. When we choose to see our mistakes and failures as opportunities for God to work, success takes on a whole new meaning.
Need help facing the storms in your life? Get Mary's 5-week Bible Study, Strength for the Storm. Learning how to face and deal with difficult circumstances can make the difference between a life of victory and a life of defeat.
You cannot change your past, but you can change your response to it, Mary's CD, How to Get Past Your Past will show you how to face your past and determine the power it has in your life today. (Also available as MP3 download)
It's not too late to enroll in Mary's weekly online Bible Study, How to Handle Hurt and have access to all of 2011 studies. We will experience pain and hurt but we can learn how to handle the hurt in a way that honors God and assures a life of victory.
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Originally published Wednesday, 02 March 2011.