The Purpose of Failure

Failing is inevitable. A person who will disagree to this is either blind to his failures or have not been bold enough to experience one. I have been open about some of my failures in life in this blog — from failing to finish my first attempt of obtaining a Master’s degree to rebelling against my family, from messing-up my life in college to failing God in so many aspects, and many more.

I am in no way proud of my sins and even the consequences of my wrongdoings. But personally, God has used these failures for me to realise that I need more of Jesus and less of myself. For example, before I came to Christ, I used to drink alcohol with friends in order to have some sense of belongingness. I used to flirt around in order to fill-in a hole of insecurities. I used to neglect my obligations as a daughter and sister because I was so proud of my academic and athletic accomplishments. I experienced the consequences of my self-centred decisions because the Lord is just. He does not leave the guilty unpunished (Exodus 34:7) and He disciplines His children (Hebrews 12:4-11).

When I came to Christ, I realised that I had so much pride in my life that I only look up to Him when I need something. I was trying to be in control of my life as if it is my own. Life back then was just about me, my feelings and what I want in life. But because God is merciful and graceful, He still used my failures (and arrogance) to teach me and transform me for His purpose.

I am also in no way saying that one needs to go through failures to learn. We can all learn from a distance. I personally take note of the failures of others not to condemn them but to learn from them. For example, I had a friend who hid his sins from everyone including his parents and mentors, and eventually suffered the consequences of his actions. I do not have to undergo the same struggles and consequences to learn from it. Instead, I took note of Luke 8:17: “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” and Proverbs 28:13: “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” 

So when I experienced a season in my life when I was tempted to hide my sins from everyone, God reminded me of these verses. The lessons I learnt from my friend’s experience of failure made me realise that I should not let any secret sin consume me; I must confess it to an accountability/prayer partner (James 5:16) and repent of it before the Lord (Acts 3:19).

The Bible consists of stories of failures, too. David, for example, was a “man after God’s own heart” but he had a history of making mistakes — murder (2 Samuel 11:17; 12:9), lying (2 Samuel 11: 7-8, 12-13), adultery (1 Samuel 11:4), coveting a neighbor’s wife (2 Samuel 11:3) and even stealing another man’s wife (2 Samuel 12:9). But even though his sins were many, he sincerely turned to God, humbly confessed his sin and sorrowfully asked for forgiveness. And God forgave him.

Peter, another example, was a disciple of Jesus. But he denied ever knowing Jesus — not just once, but three times! But even though he turned his back on Jesus, Peter repented and God forgave him and reaffirmed his faith. This was Peter’s difference to Judas after they sinned against the Lord Jesus: Peter repented while Judas was only remorseful.

And let us not go too far: There was Adam and Eve. God created them, took care of them and even prepared all the things they needed beforehand. But they failed not only because they ignored the commandment of God or rebelled against Him by not fleeing away from temptation, but because they did not own up to their failures.

Our response to unfavorable circumstances, including failures, reveal who we are, our characters and even our heart motives. God is not the cause of our failures but I believe that He allows it for the purpose of getting our attention, humbling us, disciplining us, and bringing us back to Himself.

Shame over past failures and sins can haunt and inhibit us in many ways. Satan seeks to steal and destroy our faith by shoving our failures in our face. But Jesus intends to redeem us completely. Even if you have failed the most important exam or the most crucial project of your life, you are not what you failed at. The exam failed and the project failed, but you? You are not what you failed at. You tried and you continue to learn. I am not saying that we should invalidate the sadness, discouragement or disappointment in the midst of experiencing a failure. But I am encouraging you to not dwell in it.

It is one thing to surrender your heartaches and anxieties to the Lord because of failures and sins but it is another thing to ask: Lord, what are you trying to teach me from this circumstance?  A teachable heart is a humble heart. A humble heart is a repentant heart. A repentant heart is the kind of heart that glorifies God.

The reason why many people get stuck from a failure, harbour bitterness and self-pity after it, and are not able to move forward or try again is because they associate their identity and worth in whatever thing or circumstance they have failed at — forgetting or ignoring the fact that we should look unto God, His purpose and who we are in Jesus Christ.

Yes, let us Come To The Altar.

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