Does anyone like failing? It seems to be a universally despised event. From burning dinner to flunking a class, most of us grow angry, bitter, confused, or sad when something does not go according to plan. And some of us hate failing so much that we make decisions based solely on limiting the risk of failure. And yet, failure is inevitable. None of us can escape the reality that we will fall short at one time or another. We will miss a deadline, hurt a friend, or slip below the expectations others have for us.
Although we all experience failure, many of us struggle with how to deal with it. If our failure is the result of sin, then those who have been saved by grace through faith are fully forgiven. Thus, we can confess our sins to God and trust that He will offer His children mercy (Proverbs 28:13). But what about when we fail in something that is morally neutral? How do we cope with being passed over for a promotion or falling short of a goal we set for ourselves?
Like a child runs to their parent when they fall off of their bike, children of God can run to Him when they fail. We see an example of this in the Apostle Paul. While we often view Paul as a successful missionary, he also experienced hardship. He had a tenuous relationship with the church in Corinth for a time (2 Corinthians 2:4), was blocked from ministering in Asia (Acts 16:6), and had a “thorn in the flesh” that tortured him (2 Corinthians 12:7). It might have been easy for Paul to view these hardships as failures. But instead, he is content amid his difficulties because of the grace of God.
Paul explains the source of his satisfaction in 2 Corinthians 12:9–10, which says, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Rather than feeling downcast, discouraged, or depressed when he experiences hardships and unmet expectations, Paul actually boasts and takes pleasure in it. This reaction goes against everything that our society values. When we are weak, the world tells us that we have to fix it. We are told not to brag about our weaknesses but instead need to cover them up and act perfectly. But Paul openly boasts of his struggles because they present an opportunity for God’s strength to be put on display. Paul knows the Spirit will strengthen him to endure any hardships, and he will therefore boast in his weakness because it reveals God’s strength.
We, too, can be strengthened by the Spirit in times of struggle. Failure is not the end but the beginning. It is a place where we find God’s strength working within us and God’s power shining through us. It is an opportunity for us to rely on God for comfort and aid. So the next time you fall short, you can present your weakness to God and seek Him in prayer and His Word for comfort and strength.
Additional Resources on Responding to Failure: