I have a friend with the uncanny ability to speak truth to me in moments when I’d rather prefer my own, less-brilliant perspective. You might think twenty years of this wrestle would have taught me a thing or ten, but I’m slow on the uptake in some areas. Failure is one of them. When I make mistakes or things go sideways, I struggle to keep it all in perspective. That’s challenged me for as long as I can remember, actually. I know it’s not unusual, but I could sure use a little shift in this area so I can rest from the impact and fallout of blowing things out of proportion.
Maybe you recognize the cycle, or maybe you have your own twist on it. When I imagine it, mine looks a little like that tiny tornado that happens when water is going down the drain. Generally, there’s something that goes a little sideways, a little action of mine that causes an inconvenience or a hiccup in a moment. Most healthy individuals would let it go after a brief evaluation, correction, or maybe a little self talk. No, I tend to pull out my microscope and check it out, up close and personal! (Always so helpful to a situation, isn’t it?) A few minutes of that, and the downward spiral gathers momentum. Then the microscope stage is suddenly center stage in the theater of my mind.
My friend’s voice echoes from the wings backstage: Failure is feedback—feedback, feedback, feedback—
(I secretly hope you heard that echo the way I do.)
I think I tend to wince pretty hard and awkwardly every time I hear that. So practical. Such a healthy perspective in light of the things that go wonky in life. And, it is definitely not the first thing I lean into. Maybe that’s because I’ve assumed it’s not a biblical perspective. Or, is it?
There is no shortage of Scriptures predicting the failure of the wicked, or at least their eyesight. Plans counter to the will of God definitely fail. The strong man’s strength fails; even the swift man cannot escape judgment. I can agree that people are receiving feedback from the Lord when it comes to some of these kinds of things. I definitely know there are times when I’m hearing from God about my missteps when failure occurs. (So, my awesome friend is probably right about the feedback part.) I don’t disagree or entirely dislike all of those scenarios, but they don’t quite land where I live today, and I’m brought around to David’s perspective.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever. Psalm 73:26
Truthfully, it’s not really that failure may happen; it’s when it happens. Know what I mean? David is aware that both the flesh and heart can fail; I see it’s his heart that is strengthened.
If I resist the urge to pull out the microscope and get hyper-aware of the failure, I find the sweet-smelling grace is found in “but God is the strength of my heart” in 26b. Soaking in that truth and knowing my Abba is for me, not against me, makes a huge difference!
“If God is for us, who is against us?” Romans 8:31b
Failures will happen, and it may be feedback. After our failures, God strengthens our hearts like he did David’s. He is our protector, our portion, our great reward (Genesis 15:1). I could sit in that for a while, couldn’t you?
God, I’m counting on you in this season of difficulties, some beyond my control. You strengthen my heart and mind. In you, I resolve to walk in faith and do what is right. I’m trusting you can keep me from stumbling, failing, even falling flat on my face, as I follow your truth and whispered directions in the quiet of my heart. I know there’s a lie that says “Failure isn’t an option” in the deep voice of bravado in my head. Failures will happen. Let me do them with grace and dignity and, more importantly, with you.