Failure, The Meaning of

Failure, The Meaning of

by Rubel Shelly

Published in LoveLines (Nov. 16, 1994)

The Meaning of Failure

Unfortunately, most us equate our performance and our personhood. It is a terrible mistake that sets people up for unhappiness, depression, and even suicide.

Some women arenít stunning, and some men arenít good-looking. Only a tiny percentage of students graduate with 4.0 averages. Not everybody who applies gets into graduate school or professional school, and some who get in either canít take the pace or decide itís not worth it. Some people can never break into the career they want. You may never be the top salesperson in your company. You may not make top-level management. You may have no musical talent.

Some people get married and are unable to make their marriages work. Some people break the law, get caught, and spend time in prison. Some unmarried women get pregnant. The list can go on and on indefinitely. All of us fail at some things, and some failures (e.g., relationship failures and moral failures) are worse than others (e.g., being a success in your own business or mastering the piano or golf).

But no failure means that you are worthless as a person, that your life is without meaning, or that you are unimportant in the eyes of God. Some people I know would never have risen from the ashes of a failure like King Davidís adultery or Simon Peterís three denials. They would have told themselves that they were worthless failures as people, that their lives could never again be valuable, and that God would never give them another chance.

To fail at something means simply that, well, you have failed at something. It most assuredly does not mean you are useless, insignificant, and meaningless as a person. "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Matt. 10:29-30).

Your failures donít mean that God has given up on you either. God is determined and persistent in his quest for your salvation. He is the shepherd who searches the open country until he finds one stray sheep from his fold (Luke 15:3-7). He is the woman who sweeps her house until she finds a lost coin (Luke 15:8-10). He is the father who keeps his eye on the horizon, looking for the outline of his prodigal son starting toward home (Luke 15:11-32).

Our God is in the forgiving and renewing business. Donít ever doubt that. And donít ever let Satan convince you that your Father would give up on you ó no matter what you have done or how far from him you have strayed.

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