Fear of Failure
I was a band geek in high school…and proud of it! There was nothing more exhilarating than being a part of “the big red band from Wolverine-land” on Friday night. I loved playing with the band, but when called on to play a solo, I struggled. Why? I was afraid to fail.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was completely normal. At age sixteen it was hard to understand that many people…even the “cool” ones who looked like they had it all together…struggled with this.
The Bible has some encouraging words when it comes to dealing with the fear of failure.
First, understand that you will fail.
Right now you’re probably wondering “what kind of encouragement is that?!” Stay with me. Failure is a part of life. You will fail. I will fail. This is no secret to God. In fact, the Bible frequently says we will fail, but for brevity I’ll only show you one:
“…we all stumble in many ways.”
- James 3:2
The hardest part of failure is admitting that you’ve failed to yourself. We like to think we’re perfect. Admitting our shortcomings allows us to ask questions that will lead to our next success.
My grandfather used to say, “Boy, you gotta learn from your mistakes!” He was right! So don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself. Choose to make failure your friend and not your enemy by accepting it as an important part of life.
Second, don’t personalize your failure.
Just because you fail at something doesn’t mean you are a failure.
Financial, relational, and career failures happen. These things are events. Don’t take them personally. How? By choosing to focus on what God’s doing in you, not what’s happening to you!
The Bible says,
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us – they help us learn to endure.”
– Romans 5:3 (NLT)
I would argue that sometimes God allows you to fail. Failure can be the best way to move you into success. Peter, a friend of Jesus and one of his disciples, is a great example. He was the first to confess Jesus was “the son of the living God.” Later, while Jesus hung on the cross, he was the first to say “I do not know him.”
When Peter denied knowing Jesus, he instantly knew he’d failed. But that failure paved the way for him to confess Jesus before a large crowd of people on the Day of Pentecost. He became the first to preach the gospel message, and three thousand people professed their faith in Christ. Peter understood failure was an event, not a lifestyle. He grew from his mistake.
Third, believe you can overcome.
Failure doesn’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, figure out how to climb it. Think beyond your limitations. Don’t turn around and give up. Instead, let this verse inspire you:
“Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again…”
- Proverbs 24:16 (NIV)
This nugget of wisdom goes against everything our culture says about “righteousness.” We’ve been taught that people are righteous when they’re perfect. This proverb says a person is righteous because when they fail, they get up. What gives them strength to rise again? A strong belief they can overcome!
Finally…know that God is for you!
Do you remember the story of Jesus and Peter walking on water? The disciples were sailing across the Sea of Galilee at night when a storm arose. (Think about the storm we had a couple of nights ago. It could well have been like that!)
Suddenly, Jesus appeared out of nowhere, walking on the water. I don’t know about you, but I think there’s only one thing scarier than being on a little boat during a big storm…and that’s seeing a ghost walking on the water while you’re on a little boat during a big storm. As you can imagine, the disciples freaked out!
To calm them a bit, Jesus said, “Relax guys, it’s me!” To which Peter replied, “Jesus, if it’s you, tell me to come out and meet you.” So Jesus told him to, “Come on!”
Peter climbed over the side of the boat and did OK for a few steps. Then he lost focus!
When he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
– Matthew 14:30-31 (NIV)
I have heard many people talk about how Peter failed Jesus that night. But what about the other disciples? At least Peter got out of the boat! The other disciples failed to trust Jesus enough to do that much!
Why did Peter step out? Because he believed…even if just for a few moments…that Jesus was for him!
So, what failures have you had a hard time getting over? What’s holding you back from trying again? It’s time to move beyond your failure. Step out of the boat and trust God to lead you.