Right next door to one of the flooded houses I was helping to gut was a house that hadn’t been touched. Every house on the street had big piles of debris and trash out front except that one. I asked the owner of the house where I was helping about it. She said, “He came home after the water receded, took one look at it, locked the door, got an apartment, and walked away.” With every wheelbarrow of trash I dumped, I would look at that house and get upset. How could they walk away?
I get that there’s a lot of work to be done, but come on. I couldn’t understand them walking away. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that so many of us do the same thing in our lives. We look at the mess and think, “This is too difficult to fix. It’s easier to just walk away and give up.” Life does get complicated, and often the messes we find ourselves in are complex without an easy solution. I’ve learned though, that messes are incubators for miracles.
In the book of Jeremiah, he had been put in prison for speaking the truth. The Babylonians had seized Jerusalem, and they were threatening to burn the city down and take them away captive. God spoke to Jeremiah and told him that a relative was going to come to the prison to sell him a piece of family property, and he was to buy it. Why? Because God was saying that things would one day return to normal and the mess would be resolved. So he prayed in Jeremiah 32:17, “O Sovereign Lord! You made the heavens and earth by your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you!” (NLT)
I can let you know that whatever you’re facing today is not too hard for God. While there doesn’t seem to be an end to your mess or a way out of it, God is working things out. Things will one day get back to normal. It won’t happen overnight, and things might get harder still, but what you’re facing isn’t too hard for Him. I’ve lived through messes where I thought there was only one way out, but God found another way. He will do the same for you if you don’t give up and walk away.
I’ve never really gotten hooked on “Survivor” the TV show, but I’ve watched some episodes when nothing else was on. It was on one such occasion where Jeff Probst was asking one of the contestants why she had played it safe in a certain challenge. Her answer alarmed me. She said, “I’ve never failed or lost in my life. I’m not going to start now.” He quickly asked, “How have you made it halfway into your twenties and still have never failed?” She said, “I’ve never put my self into any situation where there was a possibility of failure or losing.”
She, like many of us, is so afraid of failing that she never puts herself in situations where she can. That means she never takes risk and misses out on lots of learning opportunities. She also misses out on lots of rewards too. If you never take risks, you will never reach your potential. We can’t let fear of failure keep us locked up in a prison of pride. Failure is only a set back if you don’t learn from it. It is intended to be used to grow from, not to keep us from ever trying again.
It’s not a matter of if we will fail at something in this life, it’s a matter of when. Life is one big series of failures and successes. If we never put ourselves in situations to fail, we truly haven’t been successful. My greatest, most indelible learning moments came from failure. I’ve failed in business. I’ve failed in marriage. I’ve failed in my faith. I’ve failed in just about everything I’ve put my hand to. I can choose to quit trying or I can choose to learn from each failure and allow it to move me forward in my learning.
There is no one who hates to fail more than I do. It drives me nuts. I keep going back at it over and over until I can successfully do whatever it is I’ve failed at. The other alternative is to quit. What if I had quit the first time I couldn’t parallel park? I wouldn’t have a driver’s license. What if I had quit the first time I misspelled a word? I wouldn’t be literate. What if I had quit when I failed at marriage? I wouldn’t have an amazing family. What if I had quit when I failed God?
We each have a choice when we fail. It doesn’t matter how minuscule the failure is or how public and spectacular it is. We can choose to go backwards and never try again or we can choose to try again until we are successful. Our attitude in failure determines our ability to grow. God is not afraid of you failing nor is He disappointed in it. His concern is that you learn from it, get back up and move forward. God still loves you and can still use you no matter how big your failures are. If you’re willing to learn from them and to grow, He can use those failures to help you reach others through it.
Have you tried to live your life like the young lady on “Survivor”? Have you been so afraid to fail or have had too much pride to put yourself in a position to fail? Don’t be afraid to take a chance, step out in faith or do something for God because you are afraid to fail. The amount to which you are willing to risk failure is the amount to which God can bless you with success. Failure is only the end if you let it be that. For me, I’ve learned how to turn it into success because I choose to learn from it. You can too, but the you have to make the choice first.
For the first time in a long time, I watched the movie “Rudy”. If you’ve never seen it, it’s the story of a young kid who wants to play football for Notre Dame. His family laughs when he tells them he’s going to. His high school won’t let him go visit the campus because his grades weren’t good enough. Notre Dame refused to let him in also. None of that stopped him. He finally got accepted and made the practice squad for the football team. Every time he got hit, he got back up for the next play.
The story is really about what someone who has a lot of heart can endure and accomplish. Rudy wasn’t athletic, but he was strong willed. He wasn’t smart, but he was a hard worker. He wasn’t easily dismayed because he had determination. His coaches all wished they could take his heart and put it in someone with athletic ability. He kept pushing for his dream no matter what others said.
Where most people would have given up, he kept getting up. That’s a lesson for each of us today. It’s easy to give up when life keeps hitting us. It’s natural to want to stay down when others think you should just give up. But God put something in each one of us that makes us want to get back up. I know that after a while, that thing that God put in us can get awful quiet compared the thoughts of quitting and giving up. It can seem non-existent when you’re on your back and you have stars going around your head because you’ve just been hit so hard.
Let’s be honest. It’s easy to stay down. The fear of getting hit again tries to talk you into staying down. The embarrassment of the situation and what others think starts to convince you to just give up. It makes me think of a demotivational poster I once saw that said, “At some point, hanging in there just makes you look like an even bigger loser.” Those are the thoughts that the enemy brings to keep you down and to convince you not to get back up. He does that because he knows that each time you get back up, you’re stronger for it.
At some point, he has to quit throwing stuff at you. He knows this is only temporary, but if he can convince you it’s permanent, you’ll stay down and quit. When that happens, he wins. For me, I can’t stand to lose, especially to the enemy. I learned what it took to motivate myself to get back up each day, take a hit and to keep moving forward. It all starts with the mind. You must learn to block the thoughts that tell you to give up. You must learn to motivate yourself with God’s Word. Understand that while you have it bad, someone else has it worse. If they could still stand, I knew I could.
You may have to take several more hits before this is over. Stand strong though. Know that this period of trials and struggles is only temporary. I know that when it keeps coming month after month it doesn’t feel that way. Get back up today, stand your ground and declare that you won’t lose any more ground. Seek God’s strength to help you when yours fails. Know that you are becoming stronger than you ever would have if these things wouldn’t have happened and God will always be able to use that in your future.