I sat on my living room floor, my journal in hand, writing out the words “Why God?” Why?” Why, when I had been faithful to follow His calling to move out to the Northwest, to leave all my family and friends and to put my business on the back burner, all to work with an amazing ministry, did I feel like I was failing? Why if I was being obedient to what He asked me to do, did I see no fruit in my life? Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever been obedient to what God asked you to do and yet the outcome you expected didn’t materialize?
One of my deepest fears is failure, (yes, I am an Enneagram 3!) which means that I am hard wired to look for ways to win at work and succeed in life. However, I don’t think it is just Enneagram 3’s who are looking for the wins in life. Honestly, our world gravitates toward success. I mean let us be real, who doesn’t want to be successful? I don’t see too many books at Barnes and Noble with the title “Losing at Work and Failing at Life.”
I also don’t know too many people who wake up in the morning thinking to themselves “I hope I fall flat on my face today” or “I am excited to break my promises to God.” But what happens when things don’t work out the way we’d hoped? What happens if, despite our very best efforts, our family never becomes quite what we imagined it would be? Or the business we envisioned never makes it to reality? Or we never get married, have kids or lose that extra 30 pounds. Or despite our best efforts, we continue to struggle to do our spiritual disciplines faithfully every day?
Feeling like we are failing isn’t just about falling short of reaching our goals in life. For some of us, failing can be about feeling like we are disappointing God. For example, maybe on Sunday you made a commitment this week to spend time with God each morning this week and it is Thursday and you have not even cracked open your Bible. Or you promised God you would not yell at your kids this week and by Monday morning there was already a meltdown happening in your household and you lost your cool.
These situations can leave us feeling like we have failed God and failed at life. The question then becomes, will God still be faithful to us even when we fail? Sometimes we are being faithful to what God calls us to, and yet we still feel like we have failed because the outcomes don’t look like we thought they should. It makes us question, can we can be faithful to God and still fail? The answer to both questions is YES!
The reality is that life does not come with a guarantee. Nowhere in the Bible does God promise us a 100% success rate. In fact, what He has told us instead is, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NIV). God promises that we will overcome, not that we will achieve every outcome. In this verse it says we “will have trouble,” i.e. there will be failures in life, there will be times our dreams do not become a reality, and there will be times of setbacks.
In the Scripture it doesn’t say that when we experience trouble in life, it is all our fault or that we have done something wrong, rather that is just a part of life. Everyone that God uses has faults and goes through setbacks in life. From Noah to Sarah to Moses to Joshua to David–they all experienced failures in life, none of them were perfect in their relationship with God and yet they are listed in the hall of faith. We cannot hide from failure and failure is not the enemy. For no matter what, even when failure overcomes us, we have a champion who has already overcome the world.
God is faithful to us no matter what we do or what we are going through. We all go through valleys and mountaintops, successes and failures, joy and grief, victories and challenges. I used to think that God’s faithfulness was dependent upon how pleased God was with me, that His faithfulness to me would only be true if I were on the mountaintop. But the longer I walk with Him and the closer I get to Him, the more I realize that I can fail, stumble and fall down and yet God’s love and faithfulness are still constant. He is there, with His arms wide open, welcoming us back into His love, grace and mercy.
God’s faithfulness shows up in our lives through His constant, steadfast and unchanging love. God is not up in heaven keeping track of all our successes. He does not have a gold star board that showcases how many times we prayed, honored the sabbath or showed kindness to a stranger and a checkmark board for every time we didn’t open our Bible, we didn’t show love to a family member or we didn’t hit a goal. God says that no matter what, He is with us. He is always right there waiting for us to seek Him and to surrender our feelings of failure and unworthiness. For the truth is that He loves us and delights in us even when we feel disappointed in ourselves. His faithfulness to us isn’t dependent on getting everything right in life, rather it is born out of His deep abiding love for us.
That day after I asked God “Why?” He reminded me that my identity shouldn’t be rooted in my achievements, successes or failures, but rather in abiding in Him as His daughter. He whispered to my hurting heart that His faithfulness is not based on my performance, but rather His promises. God does not see me as a failure, rather He sees me as a victor, for in Deuteronomy 20:4 it says “For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!” (NLT) And this is how He see you too!
Nobody can be 100% faithful to the Lord, but the Lord is always 100% faithful to us. Psalm 73:26 says, “My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (ESV). The truth is that even when we feel like we are failing, God is still there, cheering us on and reminding us to never give up hope. Keep your focus on being obedient to what God calls you to and then leave the outcome to God, for His love and faithfulness never fail.