I am currently reading Tony Dungy’s book, Uncommon. There is a chapter in the book called “Failure” in which Tony describes his “success” in the NFL. He says he is often introduced as one of only three people to win a Super Bowl as a player and as a head coach. “What they don’t always say is that there were twenty-seven straight seasons that ended in disappointment between those two Super Bowl wins.”
If I were to be totally honest, I would have to admit that I often feel like a failure. I suspect this is true for most of us at some level. There is a difference between failing and being a failure. I need to work harder to keep this in perspective. I will fail often, but I am not a failure. It is alright to fail. In fact, it should be expected. This does not make me a failure.
I think God often allows us to fail. We can learn so much more from our failings than from our successes. There is a spiritual “urban legend” that many of us get sucked into believing. It tells us that God will not give us (or allow us to be burdened with) more than we can bear. I suspect this is a misquotation or misinterpretation of the passage that tells us God will not allow us to be tempted beyond the degree he gives us the power to resist. Please don’t be confused. They do not mean the same thing.
I believe God specifically intends to give us more than we can bear. This is so we can fail on our own and learn to trust him. Would we learn it any other way? Really? When you fail, and you will, take time to learn from it. First remember that failing does not make you a failure. We all fail. In fact, failure simply sets us up for future success. To accomplish our goals, failing should be seen as part of the process. It has been said that Thomas Edison said that he didn’t fail repeatedly; he merely found ten thousand ways not to make a lightbulb.
As I prepare to enter into ministry, I want to have the freedom to fail. I want the freedom to try things and learn from what works and what does not. I want to fail so I will not rely on myself. I want to fail so I will rely only on the God who gives me the strength to succeed through him. There is an old English proverb that says, “He who never makes mistakes, never makes anything.” What are you making?