The Blessing of Failure

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I know what it’s like to feel like a failure.

I’ve scribbled the word failure all over my journals. I’ve wondered if the darkness would ever lift. And I’ve cried bitter tears through seemingly endless nights.

That was during the blackest time in my life. I felt worthless. Depressed. Misunderstood.

But I wouldn’t trade that time of failure for anything in this world. While I wouldn’t want to relive it, the things that I learned through it have changed the trajectory of my life.

I had long defined myself by my accomplishments. What I did and how I did it determined my worth.

I was valedictorian of my high school class. After college and grad school, I inhaled my career, always ready for the next promotion. After starting a family, I shifted my focus to being a great wife and mother. I made gourmet meals for my family and friends, took photographs of my children’s every breath, and made scrapbooks to commemorate every occasion.

I listened to my husband, prayed for him, and made time to be together. I planned family nights every Friday, led Bible studies with my children, and homeschooled them for years. I had regular quiet times, taught women’s Bible study and mentored women on marriage.

It all seemed to be working well. And then suddenly it wasn’t. In one day, everything fell apart.

My husband left for another woman, citing my inadequacies as a wife. My children walked away from God in anger, highlighting my failure as a parent. Our home became a place of rage and regret, the opposite of the sanctuary it once was. My arms starting failing because of post-polio and so I had to stop cooking, scrapbooking, and entertaining and had to concentrate on self-care.

My professional achievements seemed worthless as a former classmate even teased, “So what are you doing now – just staying at home? You spent a lot of money on degrees you’re not using!”

I questioned my ministry. Was God still calling me to teach? I knew that divorced women were often not welcome in Christian leadership.

Everything I had worked for was gone. Everything I had valued disintegrated. Everything that brought me joy was destroyed.

Everything but God.

God was all I could hold onto in those dark days. It was more painful than I can even put into words. My friends and family rallied around me, but inside I was dying.

This extraordinary failure stripped away everything I had been clinging to. Those externals that made me feel complacent in my comfortable Christian life. My human effort to do it all right.

And it was in the loss of all those external trappings, in the destruction of those accomplishments that had previously defined me, that God touched the deepest places in me. I needed Him now in ways I had never needed Him before.

My walk with God was the most real it had ever been. There was nothing to hide behind. No one thought I had my life together. I had no appearances to maintain. Everything was laid bare.

And I slowly realized this epic failure was a huge gift.

God showed me that even if everything I had were taken away, He would still be enough. And as a result I became less afraid about the future and more confident in God.

As my life was tested by adversity and failure, I gained a truer sense of who I was. It was not based on my achievements. What people thought of me. What I did or had done.

My identity was based in Christ.  

It was in the middle of that dark time that I started writing. I had never written anything formal before but I wanted to share what God had been teaching me. Not based on what I had done but on what He had done.

My ministry was born out of my failures. Out of the loss of everything I valued. And the reliance on God’s extravagant grace.

My successes in life have never given me security. Quite the opposite, they have pressured me to keep succeeding.  

But failure has given me an inner confidence. It has taught me about myself. My heart. What I value. What I can lean on. What can and will be shaken. And what is unshakable.

All of us fail. Sometimes in big public ways. And often in small everyday ways. But what God does with our failures is what really matters. He uses our failures in remarkable ways when we entrust ourselves to Him.

We see that in the Bible. David sinned against God when he decided to take a census, counting his people instead of counting on God. God punished him, and in David’s repentance, he built an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. And it was on that very ground, the place of David’s failure and repentance, that the temple of the Lord was built.

God’s temple in Jerusalem, the holiest place where He would dwell on earth with man, was built on the ground of human failure.  

We offer nothing to God. He isn’t after our success. He wants our heart. Our repentance. Our dependence on Him.

Now God does not dwell in a temple made by human hands. He dwells in us. And in the same way, God’s greatest work in us is built on the ground of our failure. God does His most extraordinary work when we can’t rely on ourselves. When we realize it’s not about us. When we lean into Jesus.

And amazingly, God uses our failures to display His goodness and mercy and sufficiency to a world that desperately needs to see the power of God in a life dependent on Him.

God’s grace is sufficient for me. And His power is made perfect in my weakness.

 

  • February 18, 2016 - 4:49 pm

    erin - I only discovered your blog a few months ago, but I have been so blessed by it and by your transparency. Thank you for sharing. How glad I am that our standing before God has nothing to do with what we can do for Him but is all about what He’s already done for us!ReplyCancel

  • February 18, 2016 - 8:12 pm

    Jasmine Emmanuel - Thank you for sharing. It is not easy to bare one’s soul and life. I pray you are surrounded by true friends at this point of time. It was very sad to read what happened to you. My life took a detour too with the death of a spouse and life threatening illnesses. At that time I learnt who my true friends were and most of all the grace and sustaining power of God.
    Hugs from this side of the world.ReplyCancel

    • February 18, 2016 - 9:13 pm

      Vaneetha - Thanks for writing, Jasmine. I am sorry to hear about your losses- but thankful that the Lord has carried you through them. Just like you, God has given me wonderful friends- I actually feel very blessed!ReplyCancel

  • February 18, 2016 - 9:29 pm

    sharon - Dear Vaneetha, Thank you so much for writing and sharing. You are being used by God to encourage others (me!) I don’t understand God’s plans and why some go thru such deep trials, but I do believe he makes a way for us thru his great love and mercy. The depth of your faith is an encouragment to me. I too have walked thru deep pain, (loss of my mother, husband, and recently my son, as well as having a daughter who faces constant health challenges). Walking thru my son’s illness and death have changed me forever. I was not walking close to the Lord, but thru his illness I realized how much I need the Lord. He is faithful! You will be greatly blessed to hear him say “well done my good and faithful servant, great is your reward” when you reach heaven!! Please keep writing!! SharonReplyCancel

    • February 19, 2016 - 12:51 pm

      Vaneetha - Oh Sharon. Your losses seems so hard to bear…but I am so thankful for your faith through the deep pain. Thank you for your faith-filled perspective.ReplyCancel

  • February 18, 2016 - 11:25 pm

    Dolly - Thanks for writing this Vaneetha! God is using you to bless others, its so true that we experience God and his power even more strongly during our failures.ReplyCancel

    • February 19, 2016 - 12:52 pm

      Vaneetha - It ever amazes me what the Lord does when I cease striving… and trust in His strength.ReplyCancel

  • February 19, 2016 - 12:55 am

    Barbara D. - God is good and faithful. My mom just passed away. I miss her dearly but I do know she is with the Lord. Thank you for sharing your journey. Blessings to you.ReplyCancel

    • February 19, 2016 - 12:54 pm

      Vaneetha - I’m so sorry, Barbara. Praying for you as I write this that you would feel the Lord’s tender love as you grieve.ReplyCancel

  • February 19, 2016 - 6:17 am

    Lewis Codington - Wow…what an amazing story…painful, but amazing. I’m sure we all hold onto things without realizing it much of the time. Lewis C.ReplyCancel

    • February 19, 2016 - 12:55 pm

      Vaneetha - It really is a blessing when God pries away what we’re holding onto besides Him– though it doesn’t feel like it at the time!ReplyCancel

  • February 19, 2016 - 8:04 am

    lizzy - Yes. He is still calling you to teach. And I am so blessed by it, thankful. I’m in my 5th year now of chronic pain, some days the beauty of His working is easy to see than others, but thankful for how He uses you to remind me of truth–I feel the insufficiency of myself daily, but I can rest in that is a good thing, for He is sufficient for all my weakness.ReplyCancel

    • February 19, 2016 - 10:31 am

      Lynn - I am blessed by your heartfelt message!ReplyCancel

  • February 19, 2016 - 8:04 am

    Julie - This really blessed me. What a great way to start my day. More of Him, less of me. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • February 19, 2016 - 9:02 am

    Gloria - Oh Vaneetha, how this blessed me. You put into words what I could not. Thank you for sharing your heart. Failure haunted me for the past few years as all my careful plans fell apart. And yet, like you, God became my Enough, my “All I Need”. I never want to go back to the box of my own making. I am free indeed-and grateful❤️ReplyCancel

    • February 19, 2016 - 1:35 pm

      Vaneetha - I never want to go back to the box of my own making either! Love that.ReplyCancel

  • February 19, 2016 - 10:47 am

    Suzanne (princapecos) - Beautiful said. The point of our failure? That we’re not the point. God is. He really IS.ReplyCancel

  • February 19, 2016 - 2:02 pm

    Trudy - What a comfort to know that even if we lose everything, God will always still be enough. God has taught you such deep lessons through such devastating ways. And now you are sharing the Truth of His All-sufficiency with us. Thank you, Vaneetha. I love this – “God does His most extraordinary work when we can’t rely on ourselves. When we realize it’s not about us. When we lean into Jesus.” Blessings and hugs to you!ReplyCancel

    • February 20, 2016 - 12:26 pm

      Vaneetha - I too have found the greatest comfort in knowing that even if we lose everything, God will always still be enough!ReplyCancel

  • February 19, 2016 - 2:12 pm

    Elaine - Just this morning I was thinking of trials I have experienced. I think the key as we learn to accept and face them is to move forward, even if it’s an inch at a time. I too don’t want to go back but grateful that I drew closer to the One who loves us. Thank you and blessings galore.ReplyCancel

    • February 20, 2016 - 12:23 pm

      Vaneetha - I completely agree. “The key as we learn to accept and face them is to move forward, even if it’s an inch at a time. I too don’t want to go back but grateful that I drew closer to the One who loves us.” Beautifully said!ReplyCancel

  • February 19, 2016 - 6:51 pm

    Kathy - Thank you for so transparently sharing your story of failure and how it changed you. There are many parallels in your story and mine – although I didn’t homeschool my kids, and scrapbooking wasn’t a thing yet! I was a bit of an overachiever, juggling all my homemaking/mothering/kids’ activities/wifely/ministry activities, and I felt I was doing pretty well. But it all came crashing down when my pastor husband got involved with a woman he was counseling, and walked away from the church and our family. I was devestated! I remember standing in front of the mirror, not being able to think clearly enough to know how to put my makeup on. The sense of loss, rejection, failure, and shame was overwhelming. My friends rallied around me, and one of them gave me a book called “The Dark Night of the Soul”, saying she hoped it would help when it seemed like my prayers weren’t getting past the ceiling. But it wasn’t like that at all, In the midst of excruciating pain and loss, I experienced God as my tender, loving, all-suffiecient Father, and I found Him to be enough! Even in the deepest ache, I felt such astounding joy in my intimacy with my Father. It was the hardest, and most blessed time I have ever experienced. After a long period of healing, I became a nurse and followed God’s call to Africa, where I work as a missionary, and I love it. I sometimes find myself slipping back into my old “doing” mentality, because it seems there’s so much that needs to be done here. Then I remind myself that I have experienced the failure of trying so hard to get it all right, and I have experienced God as my all sufficient “Enough”, and I know what it is that truly brings me joy.ReplyCancel

    • February 20, 2016 - 12:21 pm

      Vaneetha - What an encouragement your words are, Kathy.”Even in the deepest ache, I felt such astounding joy in my intimacy with my Father. It was the hardest, and most blessed time I have ever experienced.” Thank you for writing. What a beautiful testimony.ReplyCancel

  • February 19, 2016 - 7:43 pm

    Georgia - Powerful post thank you for your honesty and insight. As i think about what a massive failure my life has become I still try to remember…yes I am a loser on earth but hopefully will be a winner in heaven. God is still good in the midst of my bad…still light in the midst of my darkness.ReplyCancel

    • February 20, 2016 - 12:19 pm

      Vaneetha - What a comfort to know that life on earth isn’t all there is!ReplyCancel

  • February 20, 2016 - 6:50 am

    Marcy - I just discovered your blog this morning. What a divine blessing! Just what I need to hear and be reminded of. God is so good.ReplyCancel

  • February 20, 2016 - 11:07 am

    Effie Darlene Barba - Wow!! Sounds a lot like me. I want to share with you this poem–I think you will understand. I wrote this for a Christian who had fallen and found they had nearly lost everything only to find Christ as their greatest treasure. Truth is that it was so easy to write because I had fallen down all too often along this journey. Too often, failure was all I could see when I looked in the mirror. Yet, it was where I learned the truth of God’s love, God’s grace and found that in Christ I have all I need. I am His Beloved Child.

    In Christ, I am God’s own Beloved
    By Effie Darlene Barba

    Accused, Condemned in eyes of men
    Rejected, hated for my sin
    No one stopped to see my heart
    Cast aside some broken part
    That no one cared to see inside
    The scars and sorrows that abide
    A heart so filled with hopes and dreams
    Of meadows green and crystal streams
    Lay shattered, broken cast away
    With nothing good or kind to say

    Chorus
    Then God’s Dear Grace that loved me so
    Looked deep within and bid to know
    Each crevice of my heart and soul
    Each broken piece to then make whole
    In Christ I am set free from sin
    My guilt and shame all taken in
    And bore upon that rugged cross
    My strength to stand though all else loss
    My sins all covered by His blood
    In Christ, I am God’s own Beloved

    How quickly men’s own selfish pride
    Does cast away and cast aside
    A fallen one—a broken heart
    Who needs your hand to help them start?
    Christ had come to heal the lame
    To lift their guilt and take their shame
    He called the sinners to His side
    To know His love-in Him abide
    So why do we not give our hand
    To help a fallen one to stand
    So, prideful man with heart so small
    Be careful lest you too shall fall

    Chorus

    For it was God’s dear Grace that loved me so
    Looked deep within and bid to know
    Each crevice of my heart and soul
    Each broken piece to then make whole
    In Christ I am set free from sin
    My guilt and shame all taken in
    And bore upon that rugged cross
    My strength to stand though all else loss
    My sins all covered by His blood
    In Christ, I am God’s own BelovedReplyCancel

    • February 20, 2016 - 11:14 am

      Effie Darlene Barba - Well actually, it is the battle I still face at times and expect I will until I stand before my Lord. Satan tries to say, “you’ll never be good enough.” God says, “Come my child, we have work to be done. ” “But Father, what about my failures?” “What failures, dear Child? I don’t see any” And as He looks down from heaven, all He sees is the precious blood of His son that covers all my sin. “Come dear Child, we have work to be done”ReplyCancel

    • February 20, 2016 - 12:26 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • February 21, 2016 - 12:59 am

    Mike R - Thank you. I have been crushed by so many things over the past couple of years, to include the loss of my career and the decline of my health. I found your writings on the Desiring God website as I was seeking wise words about suffering, anxiety, and the like, desperate for relief from the depression and anxiety that have accomplished this trial, indeed, had become the worst part of the trial. It is one thing to suffer externally, but the suffering that comes within the mind and heart can make external things look light by comparison. In your words I have found echoed my own thoughts. And you carefully have provided Scripture to meet the need. In my illness I have been watching my life unravel financially and physically. And then when I thought I could bear no more, my wife’s health began to deteriorate. I am not where you are, yet, in terms of peace. But your writing (and your own suffering) has helped to show me that God is indeed in my suffering. There is reason to pray, even when I cannot utter but a word. There is reason to struggle to have the smallest hope, when hope seems lost. May God bless your writing.ReplyCancel

    • February 21, 2016 - 12:30 pm

      Vaneetha - I am so sorry for all you have been through, Mike. The emotional and spiritual part of our suffering can often cut deeper than the circumstances do. I am praying as I write this that you will keep pressing into Jesus and will sense His extravagant love for you even in the midst of this darkness.ReplyCancel

      • February 21, 2016 - 5:00 pm

        Mike R. - Thank you, Vaneetha. When encouragement comes from someone who has and is also struggling, it is of so much worth. I came home from church this morning feeling physically exhausted and at the end of my rope, spiritually. But as I reflected upon this, I realize that living under suffering is living at the point of the spear–where the issue of faith and trust are crystalized and focused. May God bless your ministry.ReplyCancel

        • February 21, 2016 - 5:50 pm

          Vaneetha - Amen, Mike. Love this:”living under suffering is living at the point of the spear–where the issue of faith and trust are crystalized and focused.”ReplyCancel

  • February 23, 2016 - 8:44 am

    Danelle - Hi Vaneetha! This is a wonderfully written perspective. I have not been able to put into words how my time alone after my ex left me more whole than I was before , but in a unique way through the pain and perspective. I can relate to you! Thanks for this beautiful lady. I pray all is well with you.ReplyCancel

  • February 26, 2016 - 10:38 pm

    Susan - Hello Vaneetha, I came across your blog through the Desiring God site, searching for a voice that would bring me hope and strengthen my faith during a time in my life where I feel like I’m living in the midst of a hurricane. Your voice, your words were the answer to a prayer today. Thank you for sharing. God is working through you.ReplyCancel

  • February 27, 2016 - 7:01 pm

    Katherine - Reading this post was like looking into a mirror. I too was the best student, then a high-achieving female engineer (in a man’s world), then I quit my career and threw myself into being a high-achieving homeschooling mom. God called us overseas to be missionaries and we moved to Africa. But then it all came crashing down. Our team experienced conflict and our mission agency asked us to go home. We have spent the last 10 years wandering, with God being silent. I know this process is God’s work but I don’t know how to get to the place you did, where you say that you found God was all you need. How did you find the path there?ReplyCancel

    • February 28, 2016 - 3:07 pm

      Vaneetha - I can imagine these past years have felt desolate, Katherine, feeling the silence of God. The path to finding that God was all I needed was borne out of desperation & failure, realizing there was nowhere else to turn. So I threw myself into the Word and prayer, spending time in silence, praying and listening for God. Reading the Bible and praying is honestly all I can say that changed me in terms of my actions. Of course, that was fueled by the Holy Spirit who actually does all the changing. I wrote this article for Desiring God that describes it in more detail. http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-loneliness-of-suffering

      Praying for you as I write this that God will meet you in an unmistakable way as you seek Him.ReplyCancel

  • June 17, 2016 - 10:18 pm

    Elizabeth Lynn - Thank you. I measured my life by the failures, trying to tout small accomplishments to make myself acceptable to myself and others. I still struggle. I have trouble trusting. Your article leads me to believe that there may be hope.ReplyCancel

    • June 19, 2016 - 4:28 pm

      Jan - OMGoodness! Elizabeth Lynn, you just described what I have and do still struggle with. But, I especially love the fight in your final statement. “Your article leads me to believe that there may be hope.” That shows that you haven’t and you are not going to give up. God bless you! Your comment has sparked even more hope in me. I know that you probably wonder how, but just know it has.

      BTW, did you know that the name Elizabeth means ” She who is chosen by God.”ReplyCancel

  • June 17, 2016 - 10:42 pm

    Jan - Wow. That’s all that I can say about this beautiful and powerful testimony. Thank you for letting God take you through your process. This has really blessed me this night!ReplyCancel

  • June 17, 2016 - 10:53 pm

    Laura - Awesome! I went through the same thing, and you are exactly right. Thanks for explaining it so clearly. Our previous lives might be gone, but God is so faithful. He has made all things new.ReplyCancel

  • June 18, 2016 - 12:20 pm

    AbigaiL - Dear Vaneetha, thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing your most painful experience. What an encouragement to read how God has made this path of suffering a path of true blessing! How powerful is this testimony of what His grace can do when we reach the limit of ourselves and turn to Him! Praise be to Him!!! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • May 23, 2017 - 2:23 pm

    Best Blogs for Christians with Chronic Illness and Pain | Life in Slow Motion - […] of my favorite posts are How to Discourage a Suffering Friend, The Blessing of Failure, and When the Detour Becomes the New Road. Go read them! You won’t be disappointed. She also […]ReplyCancel

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