Failing Hurts Most When Success Defines Us

This blog was originally written by Stephen Braimah and posted on TGC Africa.

“I never once failed at making a light bulb. I just found out 99 ways not to make one.” This famous quote, by Thomas Edison, is used for a lot of inspirational messages. It encourages people to persevere through multiple failures, as each failure teaches us something new. But if you’re like me, every single one of those 99 failures hits like a brick.

Failure is not pleasant. And in today’s world, where people carefully curate their successes on their social media pages, it can feel as if everyone else is succeeding and leaving you behind. It can look like while you are struggling with work or family, and feeling like a failure, everyone else is excelling in their careers, having the perfect family life and living their best lives.

There are multiple reasons why failure happens. It can be because of things we have done or circumstances that are completely out of our control. So, how do we confront failure in our lives as Christians? How do we persevere through our failings so we can eventually make that lightbulb?

Where Do You Find Your Worth?

One reason why failure hits us so hard is that we sometimes let our failures or successes dictate our self-worth and value. We feel like we are on top of the world when we succeed and feel worthless when things don’t work out.

However, as we read in the Psalms: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). We were purposefully created by the God of the universe. We bear his image. Fearfully and wonderfully made by God. Our worth isn’t in our failures or successes. We have worth because we are made in the image of God.

Furthermore, John exhorts: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are” (1 John 3:1). The Bible regularly reminds us about who we are in Christ. And we need to continually drink from its deep well. Part of scripture equipping us for every good work is that it transforms our minds into having the correct biblical perspective concerning ourselves.

Neither Success or Failure Defines You

That isn’t only important when things are going well. It’s critical when things don’t go according to plan; when we’re overwhelmed by the feeling of failure. If we allow our successes to dictate our self-worth then, inevitably, our failures will do the same.

Consider Paul’s famous words as they relate to this. “Whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8). In short, Paul didn’t find his worth or significance in his accomplishments, but in knowing Christ.

Paul rested in what God had done for him. We should do the same. No matter what happens in the ups and downs of this life, the believer knows that she is secure in Christ. We will inevitably fail in this life. You will fail, multiple times at different things. But that doesn’t define us. We are children of God. We’re precious in his sight.

We can keep going because we know our Father is always with us. What remains is that we can say with Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Turn to Your Church Family When It’s Hard

One great thing about being in a family is the support you receive. So it’s extremely comforting to know that your family are there to support you in good times and in difficult times; when you’re winning and when you feel like you’re failing horribly.

As Christians, we are family. We should have Christian brothers and sisters who can sit with us; pray with us; and hold our hand when things aren’t going to plan. We should also be the Christian brothers and sisters who support others. When things get really hard, and even reading the Bible and praying becomes difficult, we need brothers and sisters who will help us stand and help us have the right perspective.

This means that if you aren’t going through a period of difficulties or failures, you should build yourself up in the scriptures so that you can be in the position to stand with your brothers and sisters who are.

Failing Is Inevitable; Faith Indispensable

Failure is a reality of life just as success is a reality of life. Those failures don’t define us. We should allow the scriptures to shape our priorities and our view of ourselves. We should also forge real relationships with each other so that we provide support and guidance to those of us who need it.

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