Fail Forward

There are consequences to our failures.  I wish it weren’t true, but there are.  David became vividly aware of the consequences of his failure: the child born to Bathsheba died and David’s family was broken.

I really don’t want to admit it but there were very definite consequences to the failure I wrote about yesterday.  It took a great deal of time for life to once again resemble a sense of normalcy and to regain much of what was lost.

So I read this story of David with a sense of hope.  I want to anticipate that God is still for David – that he remains a “Man after God’s own heart.”  It’s exciting that even in the midst of the consequences of David’s failure God speaks a word of promise into David’s life: “The Lord has removed your sin…you won’t die.” (2Samuel 12:13)  What a word of hope!  Yes, there are consequences.  Yes, those consequences may be horrific and devastating.  But there is hope.

Failure can potentially anchor us down and paralyze.  Or, the failure can be a springboard.  I’d like to think that even when we fail, we can fail forward.  Here are some thoughts about failing forward that I learned.

Get up!  Failure can quickly move to depression.  Force yourself up and out the door.

Stay connected with the people who still love you.  You’d be surprised at the people you thought were friends who now want nothing to do with you.  Stay close to the people who stay with you.

Stay connected with God.  That can be tough especially when you think that God let you down.  I dropped out of worship for awhile.  I was mad at God.  Through the gentleness of leaders and friends in my life I found my way back to worship.

After awhile, start to dream again.  By nature I’m a dreamer.  I am always thinking about future possibilities.  After the failure I could not dream.  I really didn’t care much about dreams.  Why dream?  Those dreams will just fall apart. 

It wasn’t until I realized that my dream of reaching unchurched people didn’t fall apart that I was able to move again.  You see, what I thought was a failure – a new church start that wasn’t allowed to move beyond reaching a handful of unchurched people – was a springboard for doing ministry in a secular culture.  Immediately, God moved me to hospice ministry.  It was there that I was able to connect to and offer hope and transformation to hundreds of unchurched people, who at a crisis moment, were very interested in God.  Finally, I was able to start dreaming of a future of possibility.

Often the enemy shows us our shattered dreams and says, “Why keep going?  You’re just a failure.”

God’s the one who removes the past and begins to do a new thing.  Let him. 



Yesterday I was able to teach on King David’s epic fail. Here was a man who knew great success and great failure.  His failure?  Sleeping with another woman, getting her pregnant and murdering her husband just to protect himself. 

There’s no doubt we’ve all failed at something.  Most likely our failure wasn’t as heinous as David’s.  Maybe it was.  But regardless of your failures – relationship, career, moral – God has not forgotten you.  In fact, God still loves you utterly and completely.

One of the hardest pieces of recovering from failure is learning to forgive yourself.  When the church plant that I was called to be part of failed it literally took years for me to recover and forgive myself.  I’m an INTJ (Myers-Briggs).  We don’t fail easily.  We’re perfectionists. 

I was reading about a recovery from failure this morning.  It’s a story about Peter.  His failure was in denying that he knew Jesus.  After the resurrection, Peter has to look Jesus in the eyes and come clean about his failure.

 “When they finished eating, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”  Jesus asked a second time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 He asked a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was sad that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” He replied, “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17)

It’s no accident that Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him.  Peter denied Jesus three times.  But here, Peter declares his love again – three times.  Here was a new and fresh start.  The failure is forgotten and so is the past.  Now there is a new future.

Bishop Reuben Job writes, “Each of us has our own litany of failures to recite, but the good news is that we can start again…God offers a chance to people like Peter whose denial seemed like such an enormous failure, and to each of us, no matter what our failures have been.” 

Have you experienced a love like that?

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