As a parent, I don’t want either of my two sons to have any problems in life. I want them to enjoy perfect health. I want them to be the most popular kids at their schools. I want them to be Rhodes scholars. I want them to be star athletes. I want them to marry Homecoming queens. I want them to get jobs that pay six-figure salaries that allow them to live in luxurious homes, drive expensive cars, and wear designer clothes. Oh, and I want them to give Tonya and I grandchildren, too. Then I’ll want those grandchildren to lead their own lives of unabridged success.
The problem, however, with this entire fantasy is that life is such that there is no success without failure. Really, success and failure are two sides of the same coin. Furthermore, if all a person ever experienced in life was success, that person would end up shallow, conceited, and proud, to say nothing of them being wildly unsympathetic toward anyone who ever failed.
Not surprisingly, the Bible is filled with scores of people who failed. Off the top of my head, here are 15:
- Noah got drunk.
- Sarah suggested that her husband Abraham impregnate another woman.
- Abraham went along with that plan.
- Jacob stole his brother Esau’s birthright.
- His mother Rebekah helped him do it.
- Tamar slept with her father-in-law Judah and bore twins to him.
- Moses murdered an Egyptian.
- Aaron led in Israel’s worship of the golden calf.
- Rahab was a prostitute.
- David impregnated another man’s wife and had that man killed.
- Solomon became a rank idolater.
- Elijah allowed Queen Jezebel to intimidate him.
- The Samaritan woman at the well was married five times.
- Peter denied Christ three times.
- Paul (Saul of Tarsus) was the worst persecutor the early church knew.
The old story is that Thomas Edison said concerning his struggles to invent the light bulb, “I have not failed 700 times; I’ve discovered 700 things that won’t work in a light bulb.” (In some versions the quoted number is 1,000 rather than 700.) I don’t know if Edison ever actually said that, but it’s too good a quote to pass up. As Curtis Hutson, a noted Baptist preacher of another day, once said, “The man who never fails is the one who never attempts anything. And the more one attempts, the more he fails. But the more he fails, the more he’ll learn. And the more he puts into practice what he’s learned, the more he will succeed.”
Do I believe that God wants everyone to be successful in terms of how this world defines success? No, I don’t. Much to the contrary, I think He wants us to never stop learning in life, and He knows that we typically learn more from failure than we do from success. In addition to this, I also think He works through our failures to funnel us into areas where He can use us more for the greater good.
Just take another look at the names on that list I gave earlier. Each one of those people was someone whom God used greatly to accomplish His purposes. You see, it’s not that God wants us to fail or that he enjoys watching us fail; it’s just that He knows how to use our failures to mold and shape us into better people and better servants. Therefore, if you’ve got an entry that denotes a failure on your life’s resume, don’t let it keep you down. Talk to God about the failure, get the matter sorted out with Him, ask Him to help you learn from it, and then use what you learn to boldly march out into new ventures with Him.