If you’re alive, then you’ve failed. And if you’re honest, you’ve failed a lot. I know I have. In fact, I’m confident that my failures outnumber my successes by a multiple of many.
But the truth is that you and I are not alone. In fact, we are in great company. The greatest athletes, entrepreneurs, and even religious leaders will all admit, if they’re honest, that their failures are numerous.
Of course, there are many types of failures. There are athletic failures, such as missing the winning shot in the NBA finals. And there are business failures, such as filing bankruptcy when the entrepreneur can no longer satisfy his creditors. There are parental failures, where we may find we have dropped the ball in the raising of our children. And there are personal defeats, where we fail to live up to a standard we set for ourselves. There are moral failures, where one may violate a professional or personal relationship. And there are spiritual failures, where our behavior or choices fall short of the standard established by God Himself.
The first step in overcoming a failure is to acknowledge it, seek forgiveness from those you have wronged, and then put the mechanisms in place to avoid repeating those same failures again, and again, and again.
But when you’ve done this, it’s possible and perhaps even likely that the failures in your life occasionally or even frequently raise their ugly heads to remind you of your shortcomings. It’s human nature for us to replay them over and over in our minds.
It hurts to fail just as it hurts to get thrown from a horse. But if you are going to learn to ride that bucking bronco, there’s only one way to do so and that is to climb back on and try again.
In Psalm 40:12 we read this from King David, “For troubles surround me, too many to count! My sins pile up so high I can’t see my way out. They outnumber the hairs on my head. I have lost all courage.” That’s a lot of failures, and we see what happened when David was focused on his sins. He couldn’t see his way out and he lost all courage.
Bottom line, he was remembering and rehearsing his failures and the more he did, the weaker and more discouraged he became.
We also see there were those who were more than willing to remind David of his failures in the following verse, “May those who try to destroy me be humiliated and put to shame. May those who take delight in my trouble be turned back in disgrace. Let them be horrified by their shame, for they said, ‘Aha! We’ve got him now!’”
Note that if we’re not reminding ourselves of our failures, there is usually someone in our life who is more than willing to do so. And their intent is generally malicious and destructive.
But thankfully, we also read that David found his strength in God when he said, “Please Lord, rescue me! Come quickly, Lord, and help me.”
Like David, we must recognize that when our failures seem to overwhelm us, whether business, personal, moral or spiritual, there is One to whom we can turn. Doing so requires humility, dependence, and repentance, particularly if the failure is a violation of God’s law. But when we humble ourselves, and seek God’s forgiveness, strength and deliverance, it is then that we can regain the courage that was lost by focusing on our failures.
There is another step to be taken in overcoming your failures which we learn from another great historical figure, the Apostle Paul, when he shares, “I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…”
We must bury the past and turn our focus to the future, knowing that what is done is done. The only chapter of our lives that you and I can still affect is the one yet unwritten. So forget those past failures and turn your focus to the future.
So if your failures have haunted you and your courage has been waning, practice the strategies that David and Paul both used: seek God’s deliverance and strength, and forget the past while focusing on the future. Doing so will unleash a new sense of optimism and hope as you fulfill the purpose that God has for your life.