What to Do When You Fail – And You Will
It’s humiliating, embarrassing, and sometimes debilitating. Some failures are public, and everyone knows it. Others are private, mercifully so, but still humiliating and humbling.
I’m not talking about moral failure. That’s an entirely different subject. I’m talking about the times when we simply fall short. Fail to accomplish. Mess up. Drop the ball. Bomb. This happened to me twice in one day recently.
The first was a professional fail. My editor updated me on her progress on my women’s devotional book, Hungry for God…Starving for Time. “I expected to be further along than I am at this time,” she typed, and then proceeded (kindly) to share the reason why she wasn’t—carelessness on my part had created many extra hours of work and much frustration for this sweet lady. I was mortified.
The second fail was also professional. I submitted a request to a prominent local athlete asking for an interview for the magazine with which I work. I chose my words carefully, hoping he would consent to talk with me, then clicked SEND.
Later that evening I discovered I had spelled his first name wrong.
I know in the grand panorama of life these occurrences are relatively minor, but that day, they seemed huge. As I pondered my failures, I struggled to shake the sludge of discouragement, disappointment, and embarrassment that clung to and tried to defeat me.
But Christians don’t have to be slaves to our emotions. Instead, we can (and should) process life through a biblical worldview. The Holy Spirit, living in our hearts, helps us do this. On that miserable day, before the blush of embarrassment had fully faded from my face, God started speaking to my heart. This is what he said:
How Christians Handle Failure
1. Ask yourself why the failure occurred. The answer will show you what to do next.
Did you fail because of sin? Were you lazy, careless, selfish, prideful, or negligent?
If yes, the first step to correction is confession. Confess your sin to God, and then to whomever else was affected. This is humbling and embarrassing, which it should be.
The second step is to do what you can to make restitution or correction.
The third step is to do whatever is necessary to ensure it won’t happen again. The sting of judgment, confession, and repentance isn’t wasted if it motivates us to avoid the same sin in the future. Sadly, it sometimes takes multiple failures for us to fully embrace change. I’m glad God continues to work in our lives, gradually conforming us to the image of Christ.
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