Growing Through Failure in the New Year

Here we are at another year, the clock still ticks onward, seconds lead to minutes, which add up to hours, days and weeks. Although most of civilization aims to focus on accomplishments and goals for the New Year, how would it look differently if we were to measure our lives in terms of overcoming failures?

Failure as defined by the Oxford American Dictionary is: “lack of success” or “the omission of expected or required action.”

What the world views as failure is often God’s way of pulling us in close to Him, to lead us to further growth in our walk with God.

For my family, 2013 included vehicle and health failures, yet God was faithful and succeeded at growing and stretching us through relying on His provision through employment, family, and friends who helped us when we needed it.

I know each of us fail in one way or another within our days and weeks; whether we acknowledge it or not is another thing altogether. Through the Holy Spirit’s leading and guiding – if we are attuned and willing to be alerted to our failures – God can help stretch us and mold us to grow us in 2014.

If we can avoid getting stuck in the “depths of despair” over our missteps and mistakes, failure can move us to careful reflection, reevaluation, and more thorough (and subsequently successful) future actions.

In some instances, we fail without realizing what we’re doing; at other times, our failure might be somewhat intentional, for example, not mowing the grass, letting the laundry pile up, or not calling your Mom when you know you should keep in touch more frequently.

If we admit it to ourselves, most of us have gigantic fears of failure and are many times motivated by this fear to succeed at the things we set out to do.

But just as we as Christians aim to “do all things as unto the Lord.” failure can cause us to stumble and lead us to dark places of the soul.

How to we embrace failure and use these experiences to strengthen our walk with God?

I recently came upon a delightful ebook entitled, “12 Steps to Impossible Joy” by Mary Demuth. One of the steps to joy is to work through failure, and Mary points out 7 Benefits of Failure to digest:

  1. Failure keeps us humble
  2. Failure teaches us we don’t rule the world.
  3. Failure, if overcome, proves our tenacity.
  4. Failure invites community.
  5. Failure gives us the gift of perspective.
  6. Failure grows us more than victory.
  7. Failure softens our hearts to Jesus if we let it.

From small fails to substantial mess-ups, God aims at getting our attention to turn us back to relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.

As I mourned over a friend’s struggles this past fall, I opened my Bible to the book of Hosea and these verses spoke to me with comfort and reassurance that God can work through our own failings, however great or small:

Come and let us return to the Lord, for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has sticken, but He will bind us up. . . Let us press on to know the Lord.” Hosea 6:1;3

Failure can lead us to a closer relationship with God if we let it.

I’m as bad at failing and owning up to my sin as the next person. Anger, denial, blame–check, check, check. But when I get still and really ask God what he wants me to learn through each episode of failure, I can sense breakthrough coming and the process of growth can begin.

There is freedom in owning up, wrestling with, letting go, and sensitively walking the path of renewal through acceptance.

Failure, ultimately, points us to the Cross and can ignite hope in us a transformed life, through the gospel of grace.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed. Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your Faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I hope in Him.” Lamentations 3:22-24

How will you allow your own failures from this past year grow you for the better?