After 45 minutes of deliberating, the church leadership took the offer back off the table. The promising opportunity to work for the church was gone. The offer not only had employment implications for me and my family but the offer we put on a house. What was supposed to be icing on the cake became a moment of failure for me. I learned that day how powerful perceptions are, regardless of whether they are true or false.
We had so many questions, as Karen and I were left picking up the pieces and figuring out what was next. How could a God that is good and worthy of our praise lead us into a situation where everything seemed to be lining up and then at the finish line pull the rug from out under our feet?
Have you ever wondered where God was in your situation?
It’s a word we hate so much that we like to pair it with others words such as “but” or “however.” We don’t like the story of failure without a dose of good news with it. We like reading the feel-good stories of Walt Disney, Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs, or Abraham Lincoln — all of whom experienced failures in their lives but somehow were able to overcome the odds. We like their stories because they give us hope.
But what about the rest of us?
For every Steve Jobs, there are many of us who haven’t experienced success at all, but what feels like one failure after another. If we just look at our Facebook feeds, for every “feel good story” we see story after story of setbacks, loss, illness, job loss…you name it. We might not necessarily see those as failures but for those experiencing them, it sure does feel that way. Am I cursed? Did I do something wrong? What could I have done differently? All these questions go through our minds and at times can be quite paralyzing.
What do you do when your story hasn’t started upward yet?
The truth is many of us don’t like these stories until we know there is a good ending…maybe we need a new perspective. How do we see failure as a gift?
THE GIFTS OF FAILURE
Over the years I have learned some valuable lessons like when the job offer was taken off the table; let go because of organizational restructure; camp closing down and I am now seeing these lessons as gifts:
Gift One: God is worthy of my trust.
God is asking, “Do you trust me even when it doesn’t make sense? Will you obey my leadings in your life as you step into the unknown?”
F.B. Meyer wrote in Streams in the Desert: “The education of our faith is incomplete if we have yet to learn that God’s providence works through loss, that there is a ministry to us through failure and the fading of things, and that He gives the gift of emptiness. …One way or the other, we must learn the difference between trusting in the gift and trusting in the Giver.”
Gift Two: Obedience doesn’t always lead to blessing.
What is the point of obedience—my comfort or blessing? Obedience to God’s leading in our lives is for Him to determine what He does. I have to relinquish all control, all of my rights to myself. Yet, that is exactly what He demands.
Did you ever notice how parents demand obedience from their children? There is a BIG difference between the parent who says, “Because I say so” and the one who says, “Because I love you.” Ultimately we want our children to obey, even if it hurts or costs something at that moment because we have a better future in mind.
The job offer being taken off the table made absolutely no sense to me. We had friends especially in the church who were grieved just as much as we were. Some even expressed their hurt by saying, “how can you even stay here based on what they did?” Our simple response, “it’s our home! How can I call something home and only accept the good?”
Gift Three: Obedience can lead to a transformed view of self and who He is…if you allow it
So, you might be wondering why they took the job offer back. One of the concerns raised about my role of leadership in the church was the perception I was a troublemaker. I stirred up problems. If this was true and I was supposed to live a life “above reproach” then there was no way I could “hold office” in the church.
Now, I admit I am not a perfect person. I have definitely made my share of mistakes…but the notion I was a troublemaker was false.
After the offer was taken off the table, Karen and I stayed at the church and continued to serve. We did not speak falsely of anyone, although we expressed our pain over the decision. Over the course of the next few months God made it very clear He wanted me to walk a different path vocationally. Those months were very difficult ones for us. However, God gave me many opportunities as we served our Church (Sunday school teacher, nursery, etc.) to absolutely destroy the perception that I was a troublemaker, especially when the opportunity to create troubles were gift-wrapped for me.
Gift Four: Obedience serves His purposes not mine.
This was probably the biggest takeaway for me. 2 Chronicles 16:9 is one of my favorite verses…”The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him…”
The goal of obedience is not for my personal comfort or blessing. Don’t get me wrong. I love the verses that say that God will never leave us or forsake us; that He has good things in store for those who are His; and that He will see me through to completion. I love those promises. But those promises are based on my willingness to live surrendered to His purpose, whether there is anything in it for me or not because it’s not about me. It’s about something bigger.
THE TAKEAWAY OF FAILURE
Failure is inevitable. In fact, God can use it powerfully in our lives. The reality for us is: Do we trust Him as we step forward in obedience?
As I look back on that time, God was preparing me to work in adoption and therapeutic foster care, which prepared me for my season at Focus on the Family, then as a Director of Monadnock Ministries, and now at Christian Heritage. I find it fascinating that God guided my steps into foster care after the offer was taken off the table and here I am 13 years later leading a foster care agency. All of these experiences were leading to the next thing.
We need to bring a different perspective to the failures we experience in life because ultimately, as we walk the path in front of us out of obedience, we will experience failure and success. The true question is, “Will I trust whatever I experience as a gift from a loving and generous Giver?”