The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident. – Psalm 27:1-3
Over the course of my career, I have had the opportunity to work in many different jobs. I have taught at every grade level from first through eighth. I have been a coach and athletic director. I spent two years as the youth director for my congregation and five years as the principal of a Pre K – 8 Lutheran school. For the last five years, I have been a program coordinator for Concordia University in Ann Arbor, and long before any of this, I spent four summers driving the train at the Saginaw Children’s Zoo (ok, that last one is a bit of a non sequitur, but it’s also probably the most interesting).
That’s a lot of different jobs to have held over an approximately 20 year timespan, leaving me to wonder why I’ve changed hats so often. It could be lots of things, but one possible reason was quite memorably presented to me one day by Joel, a parent at the school where I was principal.
I was in the middle of a conversation one day with another parent who was inquiring about my work background. In the middle of my answer, Joel walked up, listened to the long list and without missing a beat finished my sentence by saying; “And we will eventually find something Rich is good at.” His line left me speechless (a rarity). It was funny and we laughed about it. It was a perfectly timed jab. I took no offense to the comment as none was intended (today Joel denies having ever said it, but my good memory and desire to get even assures me he did). But I could have very easily let my mind run wild with that comment. What does he mean? Do people think that? Am I effective? Do I matter?
I share all of this to bring up a rather simple topic: failure. Failing is something we all experience from time to time in every area of our lives. We fail to hear the alarm and oversleep. We fail to see the child’s toy he failed to pick up and we trip. We fail to see the police officer as we’re failing to follow the speed limit. We fail to prepare for the meeting that we failed to put on our calendar. We fail to grab our lunch as we leave the house (I hope I didn’t just describe your morning today). Failed investments, failed marriages, failed plans, a failed diet, failing to meet occupational objectives, etc…
So we get it: we all fail. But what I find more intriguing is how we react to it. Some of us get angry or frustrated and channel those emotions into improvements. Some of us grow upset and frantically work to fix whatever problems our failures have created. But some people use those feelings of doubt and failure to retreat, to back away and to avoid the situation that made them feel so uncomfortable. Over time, this will leave that person feeling they are undesirable, incapable of success, or simply put – a failure. Maybe this feeling only appears in one area of your life, but job related stress will impact your mood at home and vice-versa. Frustration in one area will leave you less patient to deal with struggles in another. And so the cycle begins.
We must strive to avoid the pitfalls of failure by refusing to allow ourselves to be lured into Satan’s trap. If failure is shared among all of humanity, where is the fear? It’s the seed of doubt planted into our minds by an enemy wanting to distort what God is trying to do in our lives. God will take us to places we find uncomfortable to stretch us, to build us up for something He has pre-destined. With our trust in Him, we can use those moments to propel ourselves forward. When our trust is replaced by worry, we lose focus, direction and confidence. Or to borrow an analogy from Tim Elmore, we take what God provided for us to be a stepping stone and turn it into our tombstone.
Fear not. No trial you face will ever separate you from the greatest support you have. God has designed you for something greater. No misstep, miscalculation, or mistake will change who you are in the eyes of God, nor will it prevent you from fulfilling the destiny He has created you to achieve. You are worth more than a bad decision or a missed opportunity. So don’t panic in the face of opposition, rejection or pain. Seek the face of the God who brought you to it to carry you through it because He will renew it.