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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