Failure can twist your soul.
And there are a lot of ways to fail; even more ways to perceive that you’ve failed. Painful examples include failure at work, in relationships, and in the Christian life.
At first when you fail your soul feels anger, shame, or guilt. It may depend on where you fail – at work, in public, or spiritually. In the beginning you may feel those emotions, but they push you to pick up and try again.
Further along failure feels like being pushed against he wall. You might respond through self-preservation, or adjusting your expectations. You will tell yourself it’s unrealistic to shoot for the moon, and that you never should have tried. Or perhaps you will point the finger of blame, moving the responsibility to another, “It’s not my fault.”
When your soul has been twisted so tightly by failure it can no longer breathe you’ve come to the end of your struggle. Here failure feels like cynicism and resignation; which is to say, it feels like nothing. Church pews are filled with resigned cynics.
Our culture (and seemingly even our God) puts pressure on you to succeed, produce, and compete, and then slaps you in the face with trite remarks like “Just Do It.” As if you haven’t tried that already.
If you wonder at the effects of failure on the human psyche look no further than the homeless man on the street, or the German response to the Weimar Republic after WWI. I’ve personally got a front row seat right now to how failure is twisting a friend’s life; and it is ugly.
I said failure can twist your soul. But it doesn’t have to. You have other options available.
You can immerse yourself in the gospel. You can allow yourself to be defined by God and God alone. You can allow your mind to lead your heart back to a true understanding of yourself. Then go there again and again. For it’s there, where quiet waters feed lush green pastures where your soul is renewed (Psalm 23).
This is why you must go beyond merely singing to actually worship, you’ve got to make the gospel your gospel. You’ve got to get out of your head and into Christ.
Ephesians tries to explain the Truth that “Christ loves us” with a flood of metaphors. You are God’s adopted children, made alive not dead, you’re part of the life-giving body of believers, limitless boundless love, given a new self, Christ gave himself up for you; & a ton of others you should check out.
If one of these images sticks, hold on to it dearly. If one doesn’t then drop it, and move on to one that does. They are each only rough attempts to point to the deepest reality of your existence: God loves you.
I’m not telling you to stop working hard. But I’m also not telling you to go back to the beginning, to push again, and pick up to try harder still. I’m inviting you to give up, and let Christ live inside you. Christ isn’t there to help you move from failure to success in the rat race of life. He’s there to free you from the race altogether. In the end this is where success comes from – in giving up.
Give up the illusion of control, so God can become more in control (at least for a season).
Here’s two wise examples of what that means. CS Lewis said it like this, “Look for yourself and you will find loneliness and despair. But look for Christ and you will get him and everything else.”
And Jesus said, “The person who wants to save his life must lose it, and she who loses her life for Me will find it.”*
Christ is alive in you. And whatever that may mean it means you are NOT a failure. And you’re not alone. Sure, maybe you have failed. But that’s not who you are. Your identity lies elsewhere. Please listen to his voice, not the voice of failure. One is the truth, and the other is a lie.