When Faith Feels Like Failure

Author: Chara Donahue

My husband and I took a step of faith this year by walking away from a place we loved. We knew we were stepping onto the path God had laid before us, but it felt horrible. We have peace that it was the right decision along with expectant hope for what is to come. And yet, it hurt, it was hard, and something about it left an aftertaste of failure—even though we knew it to be faith.

A step of faith is not faith at all, if it never wanders beyond safety, but what do we do when we begin to wonder if we chose rightly? As I processed my thoughts and sifted through the echoes  of fear, shame, and uncertainly that haunt us when we leave the known for the unknown, I found God waiting for me as reached for Him. Here is what I learned.

Don’t Be Afraid to Wrestle

Many who know me have heard me say, “I am not afraid of wrestling with God, because I know He loves me. Knowing that He will win, only makes me love Him more.” Sometimes, I wonder if I am asking for it by saying such things, but I know to my core that He is not out to get me. For, He is good. He will choose rightly. I am His, and He is love.

That will not change when I approach Him with questions. It will only thrust me into His arms and drive me deeper into the relationship we are in together. So when He asks me to take a certain path, die to something so another thing can live, and step into the unknown, I can still say, “I trust you.” I long to cultivate a deep trust that hungers for the voice of God, so that I follow Him even if the rest of the world thinks it looks like failure.

Jacob Knows Your Pain:

In Genesis, there is an account of one of the early patriarchs of the faith, Jacob, wrestling with God. After grappling with the Lord all night and being willing to suffer to find the blessing of God, he walks away a changed man, a better man. One who’s walk with the Lord was changed forever both physically and relationally. Like Jacob may we not fear the struggle, so that like him we can say, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” (Genesis 32:30)

Listen for His Voice

When we move forward in faith, change is usually required. Word to the wise: change makes most people uncomfortable, even when it’s not happening in their own life. As someone who tends to be excited about and embraces change, I have had to learn that some people dread it and have deep emotional reactions when confronting it. Give grace.

We also need to be ready and willing to be misunderstood and misrepresented when we are propelled by conviction. People unknowingly develop stories they are comfortable with in attempts to make sense of what is happening around them. Unfortunately, we don’t always tell ourselves true stories, because we rarely have all the information needed to do so. This means there will be plenty of voices ready to offer their opinion, support, or objection to what we might be stepping into, even when they do not know the facts. But if we allow the truths of others to distort the truths given by God we will know only more misery. We cannot listen to all the voices; we must find God’s, and stand firm in the sanctuary offered in unchanging truth.

Also, let’s keep in mind people probably don’t think of us nearly as much as we think they do.

Samuel Knows Our Pain: As a young boy, this would-be prophet was woken up multiple times by a voice calling in the darkness. He went to his mentor Eli three times before Eli began to suspect where the voice was coming from. Eli swiftly encouraged him, “… and if He calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’” (1 Samuel 3:9)

Realize Sacrifice is not Failure

People can have trouble discerning between their emotions at times because they feel loss and can’t figure out why. Yet, scripture tells us that Christian’s will experience loss. We must lose the ways of the world ,and we must cast off the sin that so easily entangles. When our steps of faith don’t produce immediate fruit we are tempted to believe we made the wrong decision. We do our best to avoid the feelings of loss.

When we step out in obedience we want to see immediate miracles, but we must wait. Before the new comes we often find a part of us must meet its end­—our flesh, our desires, or our comfort. That takes courage, gained from living in the presence of a mighty God who tells us we can stand even now, even in this time. So when it is hard, even if it costs us something we wanted, or demands death of what we think are our rights, we must be willing to give what is asked from us because its being asked by a love so devoted, it was willing to die for us.

Paul Knows Our Pain: One of the first carriers of the good news to the world, Paul the Apostle, lived in constant sacrifice, and gave us these words: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8)

There is hope in day of failure, as much as there is hope in the day of faith. For this hope we have: That He who said He will return, will. That there will be a day that those saved by faith cease to know pain and failure. A day will come when we will live in the presence of He who has redeemed the world. Until that day, I will keep stepping out , standing firm, and relentlessly throwing myself into the work of God.

There is no place I’d rather be.

~~~

This is the last in our January series: Facing Failure.  We thank you for reading and hope you will join us for our February series: The Wait

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Waitlisted

Author: Sarah Dohman

God has called me to care for others, specifically through a career in nursing. The call of loving people and taking care of the sick came early.  In elementary school, I drew a picture explaining why I should be the President of the United States. I wrote these sentences on it.  “Sarah is caring.  I love kids because they are cute.” (Not even making this up.) “I love animals.  I love people.  I will take care of … I will take care of the sick.”

After I graduated high school, I knew I wanted to become a nurse.  I began chipping away at nursing school prerequisites.  At the age of 20, I began the process of applying to nursing schools.

  • 5.  The number of classes I painstakingly repeated in order to improve my undergraduate and pre-graduate school GPAs.
  • 15.  The number of my failed attempts at gaining acceptance into nursing school before I got oneletter of admission.
  • 70+.  The ballpark figure of how many nursing job applications I submitted before attending 9interviews, and having one offer.

I have faced failure on numerous occasions.  It has beaten me up from time to time.  Hot, salty tears have stained my cheeks, and I have screamed out to God in frustration.  I have been humbled again and again. And yet, God has been faithful in and through my failures.

When I grew weary of applying to nursing schools and facing rejection over and over, I found another undergraduate program to pursue, community health education.  It was during one of my courses, Health & Health Systems, that we learned about varying health care providers.  Nurse practitioners were discussed, and I knew in my gut, after hearing about that particular profession, I had to try again.  I applied to three schools.  Waitlisted.  I began to question. Why in the WORLD would God ask me to pursue something without success?

Was God asking me to rejoice in my sufferings?

Absolutely! Scriptural truths apply to all situations. In Romans 5:3-5, it says, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

So was God producing endurance?  Was there evidence in my life of character being created?

In March of 2010, I applied one last time to six nursing programs.  It was my last hurrah and attempt to attend, as my science prerequisites were due to expire (it had been a five year process at this point). Waitlisted and rejected times five.  One short email, however, said YES.

I began, and nursing school was spread out over 3 years.  It demanded time and sacrifice.  And it was well worth it. God’s purpose in my waiting was revealed.  The classes I took in nursing school closely resembled the classes I took during my previous undergraduate program.  I did not struggle, but I was allowed to be in an environment where I could flourish.

During my last quarter of nursing school, I began the arduous process of putting myself out there and asking someone in the world to hire me.  I passed my nursing boards, and over the course of the next 7 months, I applied, sat through hours of interviews, and waited.  This time, however, a joyful and trusting heart waited with me.  I knew God would not allow me to wait without purpose.

In January of 2014, I began my first full-time job as a school nurse.  God has led me to a position where there are cute kids, I care for the sick, and I get to love on a lot of people.  If someone had told me at 20 that I would not become a nurse until age 29, I might have quit, and I would have missed it all.

God knew that my failures and my sufferings would produce endurance.  Endurance that spurs me on when there are tough work days.  Character that cannot be birthed by easy successes.  A steadfast HOPE in the God who sees His good work to completion.

If you are experiencing failure and cannot see with clarity, dear one, please, allow this truth to wash over you.  You will endure.  Character is being formed.  God will produce hope.  And you will feel NO SHAME.

When God places a calling upon your life, He will see it through.  It does not guarantee an easy path, but you will not walk it alone.

Hope at the Strip Club

Author: Amy Wallace

I was asked to write this months ago but couldn’t figure out what to share, or even where to start. Hope in strip clubs? Come on, this is the enemies play ground.

For the last 5 years, I have been involved with the ministry POLE Gems.  We venture into strip clubs and hand out gifts to the ladies and some of the gentlemen that work there. It sounds scandalous and is sometimes a little crazy. However, I have come to understand that following Jesus sometimes includes going to places you never thought you would go, and every once and awhile places others think you shouldn’t go.

When Jesus traveled from Judea to Galilee, He took the road through Samaria. A road Orthodox Jews avoided, when two others were avalible. But He had  a specific purpose in mind. He wanted to reach those the religious zealots wouldn’t reach out to and invite them to true life. He sat at a well and spoke to a women familiar with disgrace and asked for a drink. As she served Him, He spoke to her hope. He saw her, He loved her, He promised her she would never thirst again, because he is the living water.

On my last outreach I walked into a local strip club, as I have many times before, not really expecting anything. I started handing out these cute plastic Christmas tumblers. I approached one girl who looked at the gift, gave a huge smile and asked me, ” why did you give this to me you don’t even know me?”  I smiled at her and said because you are special. With tears in her eyes she again asked, “Why?”

This is the hope.

Jesus came for her; He loves her; I get to tell her.

I gave her another hug and said, “because Jesus says you are beautiful and worth it.” She looked at one of the other girls and jokingly said, “I’m only worth $40 tonight.” My heart sank as I put my hand on her shoulder and said “No honey, you are worth far more than that.”

I don’t know if I will see her again, but at least I know a little bit of hope was shared that night. My prayer for her is that every time she uses that cup, she remembers being seen. Not for what she could give, but for who God created her to be. The cups in my home don’t always represent hope, but I pray that as that jolly tumbler sits on her counter it will somehow remind her that she need not thirst for empty hope when the greatest love awaits her through Christ.

 

Interested in helping with POLE Gems? Email Amy at amy.marie.spivey@gmail.com

When You’re Sent Spinning

Author: Holly Hawes

Not to sound pessimistic as we embark on a new year, but I have had a revelation; most of my years have been marked with failure.  I’m not forgetting that joy has been there too,  dashes of laughter and periods of  growth have all been present in my life. However,  I have not experienced  a single year that was a 100% success. Have you?  No issues?  Smooth sailing?  

Who lives that life?

Some years it’s a small bump in our path that is easily remedied; other years we wait broken down, on the side of the road, praying desperately to leave this part of our traveling behind.  Reality may not be exactly what I envisioned, but I still set out on the next phase of my journey.

No matter what future we hope for, I’ve never seen this on anyone’s resolution, 30 before 30, or bucket list. FAILURE.

Yet, Failure is the one thing we are all guaranteed.  We are after all, human.

James 3:2 “We all stumble in many ways.”

It may be personal failure.  The places we never thought we’d go.  The change we feel unable to accomplish.  People hurt by what we’ve done.

It may be the failure of someone close.  Betrayal.  Brokenness.  Bitter words or deeds that threaten harm.

It may be the failure or loss of a dream.  When the job is lost, the options run out, or the plan you’ve had your whole life fails to materialize.

It may be failure due to living in a broken world. When sickness attacks, the world is at war, or things just begin to fall apart.

I cannot avoid these difficult places or pretend like next time I can steer clear.  Though I could pretend to be in control, it ultimately proves to be an illusion.  When you’re going 60 mph and you hit an unexpected patch of ice you don’t get a re-do.  Sometimes we just have to deal with the things that happen.  

What is the fall out when failure haunts?

Will I fall into despair,hopeless?  When I mess up again, they screw up again, or it, whatever it is, doesn’t happen againIs fear my default?  Will I let bitterness become my poison of choice? Or will I fall towards Jesus?

I may not be able to avoid the hazards of life, but  I can choose what direction I go when life starts spinning.

This is where true hope comes from.  We will fail.  But Jesus is there no matter what the diagnosis.  No matter what bumps and bruises I’m left with or how long it will take to recover from that incident.

My dad taught me, when you’re driving and hit ice—you take your foot off the gas. DO NOT hit the brakes and steer towards where you want to go.  When life hits those places that send me spinning, the ones I prayed to never encounter, the moments I wouldn’t wish on ANYONE—when the struggle is full of pain, I must decide I’ll steer toward Jesus. Moment after moment, I have already decided.  He is the only one who will bring wholeness and healing.  The only hope, no matter what is on the horizon.

While God doesn’t necessarily shield me from the bumps along the way, He does promise:

I will never leave you or forsake you.(Heb 13:5)

This struggle will produce fruit. Character, perseverance, strong faith. ( 1 Peter 1:5)

“…Put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and full redemption. “ Ps 130:7

Failure can be redeemed.  His love is not dependent on success.  With the Lord nothing is impossible, and with Him is where I want to be every moment, and especially in the moments of deepest failure. When the heart is weak, He is stronger.

~~~

Readers:

Have you encountered failure this year?  Has anything helped you steer towards Jesus?