We all fail. And we generally hate failing. When we see that we blew it, that little voice inside us starts tearing into us: "Nice going. How are you ever going to [fill in the blank] when you keep doing this? You need to figure out a way..."
But failures aren't all bad. In fact, they are both inevitable and necessary. So, having a good and true attitude toward failure is one of the key things we can learn in life -both practically and Biblically.
Here are five inter-related facts about failure that I believe are essential to know:
1. Your failure is no surprise to God. You fell into a particular sin, again. You blew it with a relationship. You let someone get the best of you... again. And now you feel any combination of guilt, anger, and self-hatred. Frustration mounts. "Why does this keep happening?!" And if you are a Christian, you might even feel guilt before God. You might feel like you need to hate yourself because you blew it before God -like you failed Him and now there is this cosmic rule that says you need to torture yourself for some undetermined amount of time. But you don't. God already knew you were going to blow it. And though you may hate that you keep falling into this, it's God's job to do punishing -not yours- and He has already put it on His Son. So, get a grip and read on...
2. Your failure is an opportunity to rely on God. Failing keeps you humble. It shows you that there are things outside of your control -that you are not God- and that you cannot "fix" everything by your own steam and self-reliant brainpower. Contrary to popular belief, both theological and secular, there is something more desirable than being "perfect" (in the sense that we conceive of it), and that is having a close, intimate relationship with God. Being a partner to God, throwing up your hands and letting go of your illusion of self-sufficiency and control, is something far more precious in God's sight than going through the week "without any major failures."
3. Your failure is an occasion to see where God is taking you. Rather than seeing your failure as a reason to beat on yourself, see it as God gently revealing something to you ... something He will be working out within you. Let it become an occasion to thank Him for showing you this area so that He can minister to you in it and walk with you through it.
4. Failure is part of suffering in this world, and suffering is what perfects us. Now, we don't like that idea one bit. We don't like that suffering perfects us, and I think there are two reasons. First, nobody wants to suffer. We want to say, "Ok, God. Isn't there another way to do this?" Second, we don't like it because it is something that happens to us, without our input and control. We want to believe we have total control of our own destinies. We want to believe we are the sole captains of our own souls. We want to believe we can fix ourselves and make ourselves awesome. After all, that is why we hate failure so much and beat on ourselves so much because of it. Failure reminds us that we aren't God. We can't just fix ourselves and be perfect. We can't "go it alone" in this world. We don't like that. So God says to us, "You are a part of it, indeed. It doesn't happen while you sit idly. But it is still something I do in and through you, not you." In other words, has it dawned on you that perhaps God had actually called you to fail in that particular situation so that He can perfect you into the person He wants you to be, for His name and glory and for your everlasting joy and thankfulness?
5. Failure is an occasion to evalute what is really important. If you are pressuring yourself and beating on yourself to be so awesome at something, maybe it is a good time to ask yourself why. Why is it that important? What is it you are demanding to have control of, and is being awesome in that particular are really as important as you are making it? Does this situation reveal what is really driving you and maybe what needs to be prayerfully re-evaluated? See #3.