Thoughts on Persevering (Even When You Feel Like a Failure)

“It’s been said that true freedom in Christ is when we have nothing to hide, nothing to lose, and nothing to prove. We have nothing to hide because Jesus has already covered our sin. We have nothing to lose because we are already committed to denying ourselves and picking up our cross in our pursuit of Christ. And we have nothing to prove because Christ has already taken care of it—all our sin and selfish ambitions, vain desires and self-glorifying dreams.”   In Transforming Failure by J.R. Briggs

I was visiting with a woman this week about exploring her life experiences to discern the ways in which God has been guiding and directing her toward who and where she is now.  In discussing the assignment with her on remembering and examining significant life experiences I used an example of failure from my youth.   I was confronted suddenly one day with the fact that a recent unexpected failure had been shared publicly by someone I trusted.   That realization left me feeling vulnerable, exposed, shamed, and angry.  I had a split second to consider how to respond to the feelings and the circumstance.  In that moment I believe I did respond in the way that God would have had me respond.   Memorability is a clue to those moments that God has ordained or allowed through which God will guide and mold us for his purpose.  As one biblical report expresses it, “Mary cherished these things in her heart.”   I cherished the sense of coming through a failure and rising above it.   It taught me the truth of Winston Churchill’s famous retort, “”Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

That experience of response to failure prepared me for other failures through the years.  But because my response to failures had been so seemingly healthy, viewing them as opportunities for learning, not spirit-breaking permanent wounds, it made my response to another perceived failure much later in life all the more peculiar when it occurred.  I found myself in circumstances of unexpected failure and responded entirely out of character, according to all that God had taught me through the years.  Yet God was very present with me through it and would not give me the peace or freedom to do other than what seemed necessary, prodding me in ways I would never have gone before, risking making the first response even worse over time as other feelings and responses drove me further and further to what seemed like more failure.

Through that experience I discovered that God sometimes has purposes that go beyond simply refining us and showing us things about ourselves.  Sometimes God is showing us things about others or even about himself, as well.  And so it was with this circumstance.  I learned a great deal about the human condition, about the nature of spiritual attacks, about how people can be used in the spirit without being aware of it, and so much more.   I am a better counselor, an even more committed Christ- follower, and a better Bible teacher because of it.   Are those outcomes worth the pain?  Every bit!  Has it given me more insight and understanding of the experience of failure since then?  Absolutely!   Even how to avoid them or limit them to small failures instead of allowing them to expand into greater crevasses that require monumental efforts to overcome?  Indeed!   But most importantly of all, it has shown me the power of the sovereign Lord….. that no matter what failures one experiences, perceived or otherwise, God’s redeeming power is greater!

Churchill’s determination was needed at a key point in his nation’s history…..Such determination is needed in any moment in history in which any one of us finds our self, as well.

Winston Churchill:

“Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.”

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm”

“The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”

“Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

“Never, never, never give up.”