Moving Forward From Failure
How do we move on from failure? Once we have faced the impending disaster of failure, how do we move forward? The Australian coat of arms pictures two creatures--the emu (a flightless bird) and the kangaroo. The animals were chosen because they share a characteristic that appealed to the Australian citizens. Both the emu and kangaroo can only move forward, not back. The emu’s three-toed foot causes it to fall if it tries to go backwards, and the kangaroo is prevented from moving in reverse by its large tail.
Those who truly choose to follow Jesus are only moving forward, never back. Failure doesn't mean that your life is over. Jesus can take the worst moment of your life and turn it into the first line of your testimony. Learn how God heals our mistakes and replaces them with joy. “We are all failures, at least the best of us are” (J.M Barrie).
First, we must come to ourselves. The young prodigal did not move until he found himself in the lowest possible condition of his life (Lk. 15:17). Peter did not correct his hypocrisy until Paul opposed him (Gal. 2:11-13). Until we realize the need, we will never act to solve the need. We must look inside of ourselves. We need to take responsibility for our attitudes and actions. The most difficult words are, “I have sinned.”
Second, we must be open about who we are. Once we have come to ourselves and realize where we are, we need to be open and honest about who we are. It is not enough to see where we are, we need to see who we are. The young prodigal saw himself as less than a servant in his father’s house (Lk. 15:17-19; Matt. 7:5). We confess and become honest with ourselves. Failure is an enemy only if we allow it to be.
Third, give it to God. The young prodigal saw his father’s house and went to his father (Lk. 15:18). The father in this story is God. God was looking for him while he was a long way off (Lk. 15:20). Why did He see him? He was looking! He was willing to return to his father and take what his father had to give, little or much. He just wanted to be a servant, but he was received as a son. He came to give it to his father (Lk. 15: 19,24). We come pleading with all earnestness for forgiveness. We have nothing to bring but a broken and contrite spirit. We come begging to be received.
Fourth, seek help from wise people. The prodigal returned to his father. Whatever his failure, John Mark had Barnabas (Acts 15:36-39). We need someone(s) to talk straight to us but not harsh and unloving. Firm but not insulting. We need that wise person or wise people in our lives to help us navigate through the storm to recovery. We need someone to call us to their side and pull us in, not shun us. We stand self-condemned already. We need someone to show us how to walk again.
Fifth, forgive yourself. This may be the hardest of all. We can forgive others easier than we can forgive ourselves. The guilt and shame can be overwhelming. We will replay the events over and over in our minds. We will have nightmares and live with a life of guilt for the hurt and pain we have caused. Forgiving self is the hardest thing to do. Forgiveness is choosing to release the charge. It is releasing the prisoner within. In this instance, it is releasing self of the charge of guilty. It is coming face to face with God’s grace that is greater than all my sins. It will take years of continually reminding self of the forgiveness God has already given me. It is hardest to do ourselves a favor. It is hardest to give grace to ourselves.
Sixth, daily walk with God (Matt. 16:24). We will have to renew our daily walk with the Lord. We will daily have to take up our cross and deny ourselves. We will need to walk circumspectly, making the most of our time (Eph. 5:15). We will need to walk in love (Eph. 5:1-2). We will need to daily submit ourselves to God. Paul said he buffeted himself to make sure he would not be disqualified (1 Cor. 9:27).
Our daily walk with God also means we are daily in His word. The Holy Spirit revealed the mind of God. We need the mind of God to be whole. We need the mind of God to be able to see ourselves and see the adversary clearly (Eph. 1:13-19; 4:11-15). We must ask ourselves, “What am I feeding myself?” Junk food of the world? Spiritual nourishment from God’s word? As we daily walk with God, feeding on His word, His mind becomes our mind. His ways become our ways. His thoughts become our thoughts.
Learn to pray again. Learn to read scripture again. Learn to have confidence and trust in God with everything again. Acknowledge the pain. Grieve the loss. Forgive yourself.
Can we move forward after failures? Yes! That is what God is all about. He has made provision for our return to Him (1Jhn. 1:7-10). Everyone we know in scripture that was used by God was a colossal failure at some time in their lives. Whatever they did, God was able to forgive and use. Whatever we do, God is able to forgive and use. It’s easy to give up when we blow it, or feel like we can't stop messing up, but God uses our mess for His great goodness. God’s strength moves in when we are weak and fall down (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). The more we let His strength pick us up when we fall, the more of His strength we will be able to see.