Winning is the best feeling. Losing is the worst. No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I hope I lose today.” That’s just crazy. Everybody everywhere loves to win. Winning means you’re the best, the strongest, the winner. It means you are special—more special than those other losers! And so we all want to win because being a loser is unimpressive and even embarrassing. Our failures are humiliating, for the most part, and that’s why we fear failure. The fear of failure can keep you from doing all kinds of things and from even trying, because failure just hurts too much. It’s like you can’t get over even the thought of failing, so you don’t even try.
But failure isn’t as bad as all that. In fact, in the life of faith, failure is foundational. After all, it was your failure that led you to the cross. If you hadn’t failed, then you wouldn’t have needed him. So hooray for failure! It led you to salvation. See, failure, when looked at in the right light, is actually a stepping-stone toward success. In fact, faith without failure is a charade. Where there are imperfect humans, there will inevitably be failure. For the believer, weakness and failure are meant to be not feared but embraced (see 2 Cor. 12:9).
It’s a topsy-turvy world we live in where self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-promotion are the normal, healthy choice, thinking low enough of yourself to confess your need for a Savior is weak, and walking humbly is unsafe and even ridiculous. In this world where winning is everything and weakness is to be feared, it’s no wonder that we can’t get over our failure and accept our inability to do life on our own and our need for God. But what looks like failure and weakness to the naked eye might just be success and strength in the spiritual realm. See, when you are totally independent, successful, and strong, what need do you have for a Savior? Why would you look for God to guide you, to help you, or to comfort you when you’ve got that all covered your own strong self?
I have a relative who thinks like this. He’s so rich that he can do anything and buy anything he wants, and so in response to the gospel he says, “Why do I need God when I can buy anything I want?” His success makes it hard for him to kneel before the throne, and your success can do the same to you. It makes it tough to devote your time to God and to learning what pleases him and what he wants from you. But failure reminds you of your real need for him by bringing you to the place of knowing that you are in no way big enough, wise enough, or smart enough to do this thing called life on your own. So yippee for failure and for weakness! As the apostle Paul says, “If I must brag, I will brag about the things that show how weak I am” (2 Cor. 11:30).
But getting all happy over your failure isn’t a natural or an easy thing. In fact, it’s a painful and disgusting thing for the most part. But in the process of learning to get over it, taking a look at your failure and the way you think about it is foundational to your holiness. It’s like this: without an accurate understanding of who you really are and why you need a Savior, you won’t be drawn to his righteousness, you won’t salivate for his presence, and you won’t dream of his perfecting humility. Accepting your own weakness so that he can be your strength will not only help you to get over your failure but set you free from the bondage to this world and let the power of heaven loose in your life.