By Dr. Josh Moody, Crosswalk.com
We all fail at some point in our lives. In fact, to quote from Erwin Lutzer’s book, sometimes “failure is God’s back door to success.” But when we fail, how do we move on? Is it possible to bounce back? Yes, here are five ways.
When you are in a pit of failure, it’s a good opportunity to reassess your life and how you got there. What can you learn from this failure? As one coach of one of my children’s sports teams puts it, we never lose. We either win or learn. What can you learn from this season?
The Bible encourages us to think carefully about our lives. “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet” (Proverbs 4:26). This is also the lesson of ancient wisdom from outside the Bible too: the unexamined life, the philosophers would say, is not worth living. When you are in a place of failure, use that moment as a learning opportunity.
Not every failure is a moral failure, but some are. Don’t assume that your predicament is someone else’s fault. Perhaps it’s your fault! I was recently in a minor car accident. It was entirely my fault. I felt like an idiot.
As I got out of the car and approached the other person, I immediately said, “I’m so sorry; that was completely my fault.” Sometimes, the reason why you fail is that you made a mistake. It could be something morally serious, like David confronted in Psalm 51. Or it could be a minor accident.
It is a sign of a mature Christian that they are willing to acknowledge that they are far from perfect. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). And if you have done something wrong, don’t mess up the apology by turning the apology into an excuse.
It’s easy to short-change what you need to learn. But it is also easy to end up wallowing in failure. Personality types tend to lean one way or another. Some personalities find it easier to say they are wrong.
Other personality types tend to find it easier to think other people are in the wrong. Some people can spend years thinking about something they did that was wrong. It is time to get up, wash your tears, and start to plan for the future.
Start to plan, by God’s grace, for a future that is better than the past! “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” (Proverbs 16:3). Goal setting helps to get your mind set on the hope that what is coming next is going to be better.
You’ll need flexibility with your goals, too, to adjust and tweak as circumstances intervene. But begin to look ahead to a restored future.
Along with objective external hope, there needs to come internal renewal. In all likelihood, one of the reasons why we get into a bit of a pickle is because we are not internally renewed.
It’s easy to go through the motions with our spiritual lives rather than find true renewal in the presence of God and in the community of God’s people.
As Jesus put it, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15:4).
Now it’s time to start to look not only ahead, but also outside to others and to the impact that we can have on the world around us. The failure that you have been through is not only for you to learn from.
It is also for you to use what you learned for the refreshment of others. This is what Jesus told Peter (one of the greatest failures who became one of the greatest spiritual successes), “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32).
In short, if today you are facing failure, don’t despair. Look up. Look in. Look out — the future, with Jesus as your Lord, will be better.
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Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the Senior Pastor of College Church in Wheaton and the President of God Centered Life Ministries. He has a Ph.D. from Cambridge University and is an Associate Fellow of the Jonathan Edwards College at Yale University. He has authored several books, including No Other Gospel (Crossway, 2011) and Journey to Joy (Crossway, 2013). Follow him on his blog and on Twitter @GodCenteredLife. Come and hear more about the power of God’s word at The Word Conference 2023.