AUGUST 22, 2014
The fear of failure is a powerful and destructive thing. It keeps us from trying, it keeps us from living, and it shackles us to ourselves.
Recently, I have cowered from fear repeatedly. I have listened to its voice—my inner slave driver—telling me that my best won’t be good enough, that no matter how hard I try I will not succeed. It has kept me paralyzed in a dungeon of darkness. The world’s solution to this fear is, “just give it your all!”, “Find power in the trying!”, or, the karma principle, “If you do your best you will find success.” Don’t get me wrong, it is easy to find momentary and fleeting strength in these tag lines. I resolve once again to give it a go and then once again find myself wondering what went wrong. The failure to get out of “failure mode” only pushes me deeper into my fear. I want to be a less angry mom today, and then I fail, I have an outburst, and I am distant from children. I don’t want to gossip and then, inevitably, it’s the first thing out of my mouth when I meet up with someone, so I just decide it is best never to talk to anyone again. I want to love my husband selflessly and then I find myself being more selfish than ever, so I withdraw from him and protect myself from the deepness of my depravity.
Failure is a means to get closer to our God.
In our American and Christian cultures, we view failure as a detriment to a fulfilled and happy life. But I think we are way off. I believe failure is a means to get closer to our God. C.S. Lewis put it this way:
“Man approaches God most nearly when he is in one sense least like God. For what can be more unlike than fullness and need, sovereignty and humility, righteousness and penitence, limitless power and a cry for help.”
The Apostle Paul puts it this way, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (I Cor 12:10). Paul was in the process of learning that being brought low was a high and lofty place to be, because it is in our lowness that we are actually closest to Christ. It is in our lowness where we see our unwavering and desperate need for Him. It’s also there that we glimpse the ray of light that frees us from our dungeon of the self. When we own our failures instead of blame-shifting or ignoring we are free to see that there is a strong fortress, a mighty tower that we can run into and be safe. It’s in this strong tower that we are rescued and protected from the slave driver of perfection. We are the righteous because of what Christ has done, because He is the righteous one and His righteousness is our righteousness by faith.
We are safe because He is our rescuer.
We can be real about our failures with our family and friends because we don’t have to pretend to be perfect because we can’t be perfect. Succeeding or doing your best isn’t the answer (even when you can succeed or do your best); both of those worlds revolve around the Self (it’s up to you!). Our answer is faith alone by grace alone in Christ alone. In all of our endeavors—especially when we’ve failed…once again—may we come to see our need for Him to intervene on our behalf and be our all.