Failure poses some real dangers to us: bitterness, unforgiveness, despair.
Sometimes in our failure we shift responsibility, and blame others. Over time I've learned how easy it is to do that: I don't want to acknowledge my own part in failure! It's much easier to look around and rationalize that “I would have done better if only . . . “ The “if only” part usually involves someone else and what I think they should have done for me.
It works like this: “I would have kept the house clean if only the kids had put away their toys when I asked them to.” Or “I wouldn't have spent that money if only my husband had remembered my birthday.”
Pretty slick, right? I've established my own good intentions or modest expectations, and avoided blame in one quick statement.
But practiced too often, this technique leads to bitterness, because when the failure to keep the house clean or the budget balanced becomes overwhelming, or when the other person (the one I'm blaming) doesn't shape up or treat me the way I think they should, I begin to feel misused. I wonder why “they” don't want to help me. I observe that they've never helped me much. Then, like Darth Vader, I decide they have “failed me for the last time.”
If I think about it too much then I can have a hard time forgiving the people I'm blaming. After all, isn't it their fault I'm suffering? Why should they get off scott free?
Or, if I'm feeling somewhat charitable toward them, I'll feel sorry for my own self, and slip into despair. Things will never change! and I'll just have to live with whatever it is . . .
Bitterness, unforgiveness, despair – what a nasty brew! There are other, better ways to deal with failure, I think.
I can start by acknowledging my own part, my responsibility for failure, and dealing with it. I can forgive others, and my own self, for failure. I can trust God to redeem my failures.
Each of those things is essential if I want to live a life of hope, if I want to accomplish the things God has set before me. Real accomplishment requires maturity, the maturity that recognizes difficulties and doesn't minimize them; maturity that recognizes failures will happen but can be redeemed; maturity that holds on to the hope that God is still working in me to accomplish His purposes.
It's all too easy to focus on our failures and fail to see God working in them.
When I look at my children, sometimes instead of seeing the wonderful people they've grown to be, I see my failures; they are painful. I wish I'd done better.
But mostly, and more importantly, I also see how God has worked in our lives. God has been faithful, and despite my failures, they've grown into delightful, faithful people. They have their own struggles and failures, but God is working in them, through them.
Maybe the real question we should be asking ourselves isn't “what have I accomplished today?” but “what is God accomplishing in and through me today?”
We just need eyes to see!