Just the sight of that word might create a pit in your stomach, recall a memory, or evoke regret.
To whatever frequency or degree, every person has failed. Romans 3:23 confirms that unequivocally.
That's the broad view of failure. But when you turn the focus to your own life and get down to specifics, the view of failure ranges from the miniscule to the weighty.
I forgot that meeting.
I didn't exercise once this week.
I didn't get that job.
I lost my temper.
My kids are screaming at each other again.
My marriage is over.
So what do you do when failure comes? Do you wallow in guilt? Is it once and done or try, try again? Do you frantically try to fix things? Do you throw your hands up and give it the old "whatever"? Do you move through and move on? Or are you stuck?
Correctly Define Failure
Let's start with that broad view of failure we see in Romans 3:23: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." We all, through our own efforts and understanding, cannot save ourselves. We'll always fall short. We cannot be good enough, smart enough, or anything enough to bring ourselves into a right relationship with God. We will always fail.
And yet Romans 3:23 is not the final word. God, in His mercy and sovereignty, offers us a solution defined succinctly in Romans 5:8: "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." We have hope! We have a solution! We have perfection that was offered to cover our failure. When we understand our desperate need, believe the only solution is Christ, and cry out to Him for salvation, we will be saved (Rom.10:9).
That's the broad view. Those of us who believe, trust, and follow Christ are defined by the victory of the cross. But there's the personal, moment-by-moment view of failure we grapple with, too.
When Failure Comes
Failure may define some results in your life, but it doesn't define you. We're all going to continue to fail and fall short. We're all going to have consequences of those failures—great and small. So when you fail or feelings of failure come and mire you down with guilt or resignation, what should you do? I'd like to suggest three things.
- Remember the broad view. You are not defined by failure. If you are a child of God, you have Christ's covering and the forgiveness of God.
- Think wisely, carefully, and prayerfully about failure.
- You may not have exercised once this week, but it doesn't mean you're a hopeless, lazy glutton.
- You may have received a "no" from that job interview, but you have not failed in your job hunt.
- You may have lost your temper and screamed your fool head off at your kids, but that moment doesn't define your motherhood or allow you to conclude that you're a bad mom.
- You have fuel to move through and beyond that failure from God Himself. Second Corinthians 3:5 says, "Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God." Our competence and ability to move past failure is given by God. We must obey His Word and respond with whatever change He shows us for our minds, hearts, or actions. We are competent through Christ Jesus.
You are not defined by those failures. But failures are a reality, and you have hope for restoration and a path to move through and beyond the results of that failure. Pray, ask for forgiveness if you need to, and move through. There is no once and done "formula," but there is hope through the power of Christ for hope and perseverance.
So how will you respond when failure comes? Remember, you are not defined by failure. Think wisely, carefully, and prayerfully about failure. And know that God will give you the strength, grace, and perseverance to move through and beyond.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever (Ps. 73:26).