Am I a failure?
When I was in college, I took a trip to New York City, New York on a mission trip. It was a great trip that I’ll never forget. One particular aspect that I’ll always remember was a moment while riding on the subway at night heading back to the church. I was with a group of people who were laughing and chatting about day’s events. I sat their quietly as the train roared through the tunnels thinking about a lot of what I had seen. For a moment the noise of the people seemed to fade away, and all I could hear was the train.
I had several dear friends on that trip, but at that moment, I felt alone. Isolated.
So many on that trip were talented in so many different areas. They all seemed to have an ability or skill that made them uniquely qualified for this trip. But as I sat there I began to wonder, what had I honestly contributed to the group or to the lives of the people we were ministering too. Doubt and fear crept in for a second as I wondered if I really served any purpose what so ever. I asked myself, “Have I failed in some way?”
It’s a Common Question
This fear of failure and slipping into isolation is indeed no stranger to those of us in Geek Culture, but these emotions are not a novelty to us. Even the most confident or narcissistic people in the world struggle with these thoughts at one time or another. For me, over the years I’ve questioned a lot of things. I’ve often found myself asking…
Am I a failure as a son, a brother, a friend, a husband, a pastor, a geek, an artist, a Christian?
For some, you may never examine some of the above, but for me, they are ones I’ve questioned time after time. Like moments on the train, I’ll fall back into a mode where everything is silent, and these questions come to mind. I feel like I’ve disappointed a lot of people over the years and my attempts to live up the expectations of others feels like I’m struggling to keep my head up in the midst of a raging river. Each time I manage to grab a gasp of air something else hits me and pulls me deeper underwater.
I see others who seem to have things together so perfectly, and I question what I’m doing wrong. Friends who have successful careers and/or ministries. Men who seem to have everything together in their households, seemingly are supplying everything their families need and seem to be much more manly than I could ever be. People who seem to know how to say the right thing at the right time and everyone knows that they are one of the most exceptional people to be friends with ever. Sons and brothers who seem to have things locked down and are a rock for their families. Christians who always seem to have more scripture memorised, more hours logged reaching the lost, more in-tune with the Holy Spirit and more holy than I could ever be. I hold up this warped mirror made up of all these things, and I say to myself…
Am I a failure?
So am I?
The short answer is no. I’m not. At least not in the context that many of us ask that question. Sure we may fail a task given to us. But in the context of the doubt and fear, we are not asking about a momentary state of realising we’ve messed up in specific areas, we are asking about our identity. In a spiritual and mental sense it is as if they have taken one of those “Hello, I am” stickers and in the blank space written “a failure.” They have then slapped that sticker firmly to their spirit and begun walking in that identity.
But that’s never been the case. As a follower of Jesus Christ, our identity is so much more than that. Take a moment to look at these 4 verses.
But to all who did receive Him [Jesus], who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God,
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
-1 John 3:1
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Just in these four verses, we discover that as Christ followers we are given the right to become Children of God. We find that this identity as Children of God is a direct outgrowth of the love of God the Father. We discover that because of this love from our Father in Heaven, we have nothing to fear. We also see that this same loving Father considers us His workmanship or His pride and joy if you will.
The identity of being a “Child of God” is so much more than “Failure.”
I think that some of the issues come about because we have forgotten something. We are in a long marathon called life, and our end goal is one thing, honour God. Stumbling will happen, and sometimes it happens a lot.
In Acts 20:24, the Apostle Paul speaks to this race. Paraphrasing his words he simply says, “doesn’t matter how much I get hurt in the process, as long as when I die I’ve done what God has called me to do, I’m good.” While speaking to Timothy, someone who was like a son to Paul, he says…
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
-2 Timothy 4:7
But how? How did Paul do it? He went through so much in his life, how did he manage to get past the false identity of “I am a Failure?” I believe we see a glimmer of the answer in one of his letters to the church of Corinth when he was speaking about an ongoing issue, a “thorn in his side.”
But he said to me, “My [The Lord’s] grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
-2 Corinthians 12:9
Paul understood the principle of allowing God to work through his weakness to do so much more than he could ever imagine. Whatever this thorn in his side was, it was something that brought him to a moment where everything faded away, and it was just the thorn. A thorn that was telling him that he couldn’t go on, that he was a failure, and that he should give up. But when that thorn kicked in, he did the mightiest thing he could do. He leaned into the Lord. He probably took a moment to remind himself of who God was and what God said he was.
Dear reader, I have no idea who you are or what you’re going through right now. But I do know this, you’re not a failure. You are a child of God. You are a son/daughter of the creator of the universe. You are a precious and dear child to Him. His incredible love has given you the ability to carry that identity. Don’t give up. Don’t surrender to the lies. I know it’s hard. But when that thorn in your flesh starts to rise up, take a moment, lean into the Lord, and remind yourself of who you a really are.
No, it doesn’t change your situation, but it does change your perception of the situation. It does place you in a better place to navigate things and do what needs to be done. Stay devoted to Him, walk in His peace, walk in His love.