Monday, September 27, 2010

The Blessings of Failure

I'm joining with Marla and friends for week 3 of the Radical Read-Along.  This week's chapter is on the importance of relying on God's power.

 In this culture, we are told that it is possible to achieve any goal if we work hard enough.  There is inspirational story after inspirational story about a boy or girl who grew up rough, worked three jobs, put themselves through university, never ever gave up, ate crackers for one whole year and now is the chief cardio surgeon at a major hospital, university professor, billionaire entrepreneur, president, lawyer, fill-in-the-blank.  We tell our children that they can be anything they want to be, that they can achieve any goal if they put their minds to it.  This is a can-do culture.  There is no obstacle that creativity, determination, ingenuity and hard work can't overcome.  And in this culture, we really don't need God for anything other than a feel good fix, a sense of morality or someone to thank during our acceptance speech.

 That's sad. And wrong.

 We don't hear about the people who fail.  We hear about those who fail and succeed, but not the ones that work their tushies off only to burn out or fall ill because of the immense physical and emotional stress that comes with that lifestyle.  We don't hear about the ones who try their best only to be consistently told that it isn't good enough.  Not only do we not talk about them, they're the ones we look down on.  The ones that couldn't just rise above, couldn't make it on their own but instead dropped out, filed for bankruptcy, or started popping pills and attending regular therapy sessions to cope with depression or other mental health issues.

 Can you guess which category I'm in?

 I would label myself as a failure.  I've struggled with depression since I was a young child, was severely bullied on several occasions and just generally didn't fit in.  I'm not crafty, not athletic, mathematically challenged, and definitely not a good housekeeper!  I dropped out of university on the verge of burnout after working full-time and attending school full-time because I was single and pregnant with my first child.  Currently I'm battling both chronic fatigue and post-traumatic stress disorder.  Neither of these are fun.  Both of these illnesses easily earn me the failure label.   However, in my failures, I've learned something amazing.

 Failure isn't a bad thing.  Neither is being inadequate.

 The amazing thing about failure is that it points us to God.  Doesn't just point us there, failure sends us directly to God, often on our knees.  I cry out to God because I am dependent on Him.  My crisis pregnancy was really a lifesaver, because through that horrible experience I came back to God and met Him in a whole new way.  When I lost my ability to walk in the last months of my pregnancy, I spent most of my time praying and in the Word.  Failure was a very good thing for me.

 Failure doesn't just force me to depend on God, it means that I give Him all the glory.  The Scripture says that no one comes to God unless he or she is called by the Holy Spirit.  That's easy to forget when we have a rocking worship band, a well-spoken pastor, an uber-friendly congregation, dynamic small groups and a great outreach program.  Platt says" I am frightened by the reality that the church I lead can carry on most of our activities smoothly, efficiently, even successfully, never realizing that the Holy Spirit of God is virtually absent from the picture"(p.50).   This frightens me.  I don't want to be so reliant on my own abilities that I stop relying on the awesome power of the Holy Spirit who can do more than I can ask or imagine.

 Another good thing about being inadequate is that I have seen God show up and do something amazing.  About three years ago, I connected with a young single mom.  It was a God-thing in and how we met, with both of us being in the right place at the right time and then me stepping completely out of my comfort zone, chasing her down, knocking on her door and introducing myself.  Strangely, she didn't run away.  We became friends, but I felt as if I failed her.  I didn't try hard enough to connect, didn't chase her down more, didn't speak more about God to her.  She'd randomly show up at my door, often when I was in the middle of chaos, I'd invite her in and we'd chat.  One day we hung out and she revealed that she'd recently became a Christian.  That was awesome!  But still, she struggled and wandered and I was busy with my own life.  Several months ago, I worried about how much I had failed her.  It made me sad.  Then a couple weeks later, she was back in my life.  As we talked, I was amazed to learn how much I had encouraged and supported her when I felt the opposite.  For me, this was God's way of saying "It is not about you! Not at all!"  She asked me to be one of her bridesmaids and is a very special friend of mine.  I honestly can't take the credit for that.

 In the last couple months, I've had other encounters like that.  Places where I wasn't good enough, didn't put enough in and God showed up and did something amazing, far beyond what I had hoped or dreamed.  I've learned a lot about what God can do. I've also learned about what I need to do.  It's simple: I need to believe, obey and pray.

 I've written before about BHAGs.  After seeing what God has done and after reading this chapter of Radical, about the Holy Spirit's indwelling power, I have a new Big Hairy Audacious Goal.  Currently I am praying that God will bring every person in my children's school, from the principal down to the extended family members of the students to a saving knowledge of Christ.  Can I do this?  Nope, not at all.  Can God? Well, He saved about three thousand people in one day in Acts, so I'm pretty sure a school of about 200 students in a year isn't a challenge. :)

 My encouragement to you is to not let failure discourage you.  Rather, embrace the One who is able to do all things.  If you try to be perfect, it's okay to stop.  Let God be at work in you this year.  As you fail, rejoice in the amazing things He does.  Don't just stop there though.  I challenge you to set a crazy God-sized goal that only He can fulfill.  Then pray and see what He can do.  It might not look the way you expect, but it's bound to be spectacular.


  1. I am visiting from Marla's read along. I really needed to hear your post. I have struggled with depression on and off for over 10 years, but in the past 2 it's definitely a much more difficult thing. I am on meds now to help with it and it makes me feel inadequate at times. I too have seen God show up and been thrown into a place where I all I can do is call to him.

    Thanks for being honest and open!

  2. My goodness gracious this was sooo good! I struggled a lot with the chapter and how to articulate ANYTHING worthwhile about it. Thank you for your "bare-soul" - it was very encouraging! (I have struggled with depression off and on for the past 12 years, so this post spoke to me in that area as well.)

  3. What an awesome post and so true! Thanks for being so honest, you are an inspiration.

  4. Thank you for sharing from your heart! Your testimony about how God worked through you to minister to that single mom so encouraged me. I have also recently stepped WAY out of my comfort zone, at the urging of the Holy Spirit, to minister to an acquaintance from the kid's school who is struggling with brain cancer. One of my fears is failing her but you reminded that when God is at work, His plan never fails!

    Thank you also for stopping by and commenting on my blog!

  5. Wow, that is SO encouraging about your friend! Only God can work in people's lives like that, and even though He might use us to speak truth, love, and encourage, He alone is the one who changes hearts.

    And I love your BHAG! :) Incredible!

  6. Failure brings us to God. You perfectly articulated what I tried to write. Thank you for sharing your story and your recent encouragement. Thanks too for commenting on my post- I appreciated hearing your perspective and I took at as encouragement:)

  7. Wow, I love this encouraging and inspirational post. I have been hearing so much about "Radical" -- I need to read it myself.

    I, too, struggle with depression...and I battled Chronic Fatigue Syndrome several years ago. I didn't know God then, but I do now...and that has made all the difference.