Failure. Not necessarily a word that gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling. Nope. For most, failure is a tough and scary word.
Especially when our society seems to be obsessed with highlighting one’s failures when something doesn't go right. This creates a culture that fears making mistakes. But what happens if we go against culture and actually look at fear as a tool for growth? What if we looked at failure as a learning process instead of a big fat mistake that mars our reputation.
A perfect example would be Thomas Edison and the light bulb. Did you know that during the arduous process of inventing the light bulb, Edison hit a large number of snags along the way? When asked about these apparent failures, he responded that he did not fail, rather he found 10,000 ways how not to make a light bulb.
Failures aren't really failures, they are learning experiences as long as we choose to grow from them. We have to know that success or achievement is a process and not an immediate result. Believe it or not, when we make a mistake we are then given a tool that can help us better shape the next try. To fail, in other words, is to learn what to improve upon.
Why do we fear failure? For me, failure was one of my biggest fears and is still something I deal with. Over time, I realized I was not just afraid of making mistakes, but about what those mistakes and failures would say about who I am. I was afraid that by failing it would mean that I am a failure; by being at fault that I am faulty; by making mistakes that I am the mistake. Fear told me if I didn't succeed then I would forever be a failure, and failure would be my identity. It took me some time to realize that this was a lie, a falsehood woven to keep me immobilized and down for the count. Our fear of failure is an identity issue.
To combat this insidious lie that we are failures, we must dig into the Word of God and discover who he tells us we are. I want to challenge you to take the time to discover what your identity is in God. When you give him the space to share all his love for you, all the joy he takes in being with you, and how proud he is of you, that is where our identity in him is realized. We no longer need to fear failure when we know who truly defines us.
As we conquer our fear of failure, we should also talk about the fear of others seeing us "fail." Would you agree with me if I said we place too much value on the opinions of others? I can remember not raising my hand in class when the teacher would ask a question because I was afraid of what people would think of me if I got it wrong. Ironically, it was from the questions I got wrong that I learned the most. We cannot let the opinion of others stop us from trying.
In summarizing the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, our todays and yesterdays are the blocks with which we build our tomorrows. Step boldly forward in your identity as a child of God and take the risk of failing. Embrace the challenge. Don't take the easy road. And when you fail, pick yourself back up, ignore the negative voices shouting in your ear, and keep pressing forward toward the goal. The righteous falls seven times and rises again (Proverbs 24:16). Said another way, the greatest glory of living lies not in never failing but rising every time we fall. So, let's rise to the occasion as we capitalize on our "failures" to propel us forward in our journey with God.