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.