When I hear the word “failure” my mind is instantly filled with more past experiences than I can process. Failures as a believer, husband, father, church leader, friend, speaker, listener, tweeter, instagrammer, congregant…
I have received completely legit phone calls from congregants about things I forgot to follow through with. I have sat with my leadership team after a weekend youth retreat and thought, “I really let them down”. I have sat in my car, speechless after a volunteer shouted a lit of my failures to me over the phone. I have looked in my wife and sons’ eyes after not doing what I had promised.
I have failed.
Have you ever failed? Messed up a church report? Prepared for hours for an event that had a very small turnout? Left a leadership meeting feeling like you bombed–and everyone just looked at you like you were speaking a different language? Can you remember that time you walked back to your car after a Sunday morning, replying the body language you observed from the congregation and felt like you’re just not good enough?
We have all failed. But I believe we need to fail more. Because it’s when we fail that God reminds us that it’s His strength within us that we need to depend on, and not our own.
Failure is debilitating. We don’t know what to do, and it’s hard to navigate out of this sense of failure. What if there was a way we could tackle failure that will set us free to grow? Paul addresses this exact feeling in Philippians 4: 10-13:
Not that I am speaking of being in need , for I have learned in whatever situation, I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
When I read this, I envision a beautiful picture of God teaching us the secret of how to navigate the low points of our failures. The secret is our ability to bring ourselves to a level of contentment. And that contentment is Jesus. Here are five ways, in the light of this passage, that we can navigate failure and grow:
- Go to God in prayer and articulate your failure to Him. Don’t react in any other way than by going to God in prayer. It’s super easy to react and go down a road that will lessen growth. Prayer must be our first move. The only way we can grow from this failure is to sit before our Heavenly Father and lay our lives before Him.
- Share with a close friend or mentor. After spending some time in prayer, spend some time with someone in your trusted community. Failures we hold in will come out and, most likely, manifest as burnout, frustration or anger. Speak with someone you know will listen and point you back to Jesus. Again, this move is critical and if the wrong person is consulted, it can complicate the growth process.
- Keep going. Sometimes failure is so debilitating that our initial reaction can be to just hide away and cease all of our daily tasks. Do take time to retreat and pray, but don’t stop moving. Keep going!
- Pursue professional Christian counsel. Check with senior leadership at your church (or another church) about seeking professional Christian counsel. This is a great resource and, many times, very helpful in bringing clarity founded in God’s Word.
- Share your failure in a healthy context. After some time, it’s important to share your failures with others you work with, and even congregants, at appropriate times.
Through our failures, we must remind ourselves, that God is still using us and still giving us strength. We must remind ourselves that, because of Jesus Christ, we have the capacity to grow from failure.
So, run hard, try new things and fail!
Have you failed? How have you pursued growth and health as a leader after failure? How would you coach someone through failure?
by Luke McClain, Leadership Contributor