Hey, my friends. Welcome back to Let’s Encourage One Another.
Today, I just want to have a bit of a heart-to-heart conversation with you about something that I feel so many of us get stuck by, and that is failure.
We each define failure in a very personal way. To some, this might look like not being able to pay all of your bills on time, or not being able to keep a clean house, or trying to reach a goal and not being able to. You know what failure looks like for you in this season of your life.
When I was younger and in school, I loved school, I loved to learn. And so I often got good grades. Well, one day I came home with a C on a midterm report and I was just so frustrated and embarrassed because it wasn’t an A. It wasn’t even a B. It was a C! And to me, that was failing.
These days, I often feel like I fail when I can’t keep the house as clean as I want it, or I don’t meet my business and ministry goals. I tend to beat myself up about it. I start to doubt and question what I’m doing.
But failure isn’t limited to these kinds of situations. And what I want to focus on today is when we think we mess up when it comes to caring for those around us.
We say the wrong thing.
We do the wrong thing.
We don’t send the card like we were going to.
We give a gift card to a restaurant instead of cooking a meal at home like we wanted.
We ignore the hurt and don’t do anything at all.
And we let that failure, that mistake, sneak its way into our hearts and minds. And we start telling ourselves things like, I must not be meant to do this, or God needs to find somebody else, or I just can’t do anything right, I should just stop trying.
I know what it’s like to beat myself up for something that I’ve done that didn’t go as planned. I know what it’s like to play mind games with the enemy. I don’t always recognize what’s a lie. And I get sucked into believing something that then prevents me from reaching out the next time.
Have you been there?
I think back to the times when a friend said just the right thing to me when I was struggling and I think, Why can’t I be more like him? Why can’t I respond to the hurt and pain of others with these powerful questions and reminders that point others back to Jesus?
Or I come across a hurting friend, and before I take any sort of action to reach out to them, an image will pop up in my mind of someone with whom I did not respond well, and my words, my tone, actually hurt them. And I just see their fallen face in my mind, and that breaks my heart and so, in this current circumstance, I think, I don’t want to hurt this friend, too. And I hesitate and take a step back and think, I’ll let someone else handle this one.
Or I’ll be praying for a friend who has been going through a rough season and want to reach out to her, but it has been so long since we’ve had any sort of conversation that it’s now awkward. What will they think? I should have talked to them before this. I can’t believe I let it go that long. But instead of checking in, I hide in the shame that it took so long for me to talk to them.
Can you relate to any of these? Has your own story popped up in your mind?
We all have a story where we feel like we’ve messed up when it comes to caring for those around us. We probably have multiple stories.
And my friend, I don’t want us to get stuck in this place of shame and failure. Because that’s where the enemy wants us to be. He wants us to live in fear and shame so that we don’t take that step out and love those around us.
I think about what might have happened if Paul had fallen prey to that shame and failure. I mean, he was persecuting Christians. He was hunting them down. He was tearing families apart. And everyone knew that this was what he was doing.
You know, God tells a man named Ananias to go and pray for Paul so he could see again, and Ananias almost questions Him, like, “God, I know what this man has been doing. He’s been arresting Your people. He has done terrible things.” Paul’s reputation proceeded him.
And then Paul comes to meet Jesus and finds out that he was wrong about all of it. What would have happened if he got stuck in that place of failure? I wonder, how could he possibly get past that, to the point that not only is he proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah, but he is pretty open about his past and the mistakes that he made.
Paul had a boldness about him that only an encounter and relationship with Jesus could produce.
And friends, that’s what we need. Instead of attaching ourselves to our fears and failures, we need to attach ourselves to Jesus.
Instead of beating ourselves up about it, instead of wallowing in the shame, instead of rehearsing in our mind everything we did wrong, we are going to take a different approach to it.
First, we’re going to confess it. So right here, right now, let’s all just acknowledge that we mess up. We all mess up.
There is power in confession, my friend. When we confess, we are shining a light on the dark places of our lives. We are seeking to make things right again. We are refusing to hide.
Psalm 32:5 (NLT) says, “Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.’ And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.”
In essence, we are saying to God, “I know that what I did wasn’t right.”
And after we confess, we repent. Second Corinthians 7:9 tells us to have a godly sorrow, where the pain causes us to repent and change our ways. This pain that we’re feeling for having hurt our friend or not loving them well… we’re acknowledging it and we’re telling God that we want to do better.
Psalm 38:18 (NLT) says, “But I confess my sins; I am deeply sorry for what I have done.” That’s where the godly sorrow comes in.
“God, I know what I did wasn’t right, and I’m so sorry for responding in that way.”
When we confess and repent, we receive God’s forgiveness for it. I think this is where we often get stuck because we can’t let go of what we did. We keep beating ourselves up about it. We continue to feel regret.
But 1 John 1:9 says, “…if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” Do you believe that? Are you willing to receive His forgiveness?
And last, I want to encourage you to adopt a posture of curiosity about it instead of judgment. I want you to ask questions like, “What made me say that to her?” and “Why did I not send the card like I really wanted to? What got in the way of that?” “She is a good friend of mine, why haven’t I talked to her for so long?” “What was behind my reaction? What was going on that day, that I responded with frustration rather than compassion?”
It’s only when we do that kind of prayerful reflection that we can begin to make some of those changes we need to make.
Let’s say that I have a friend who is hurting and it has been so long that I’ve talked with her that I feel awkward for reaching out to her, even though I want to. I’ve been through this enough times to know that, you know, I sometimes resent being the only one who is initiating the contact. I don’t like that. It begins to feel very one-sided and like I’m pursuing a friendship that the other person isn’t interested in. And so I stop.
But what I see and experience on my end isn’t always the case. Sometimes they just don’t have the energy to reach out to me first. Sometimes they are going through such a difficult time that it’s hard to see past what’s right in front of them. And so sometimes, what I perceive as not being interested in friendship isn’t really true at all.
But it’s only when I stop and prayerfully notice and reflect on what’s going on that I can, with God’s help, uncover what might be going on inside of me that prevents me from reaching out like I know He wants me to.
Friend, I want to encourage you that, even in our failures, God can use us. He can use you. We will not do this encouragement and care thing perfectly every time. We’ll mess up. We’ll make mistakes. We’ll have hard days.
But we can’t let our failures stop us from caring about others. We can’t let them stop us from caring for them.
We have to put our faith and trust in the One who will never fail.
In Deuteronomy 31:6 (NLT) it says, “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
God, I know how easy it is to feel defeated and hopeless when I just can’t seem to say or do the right thing for a friend who is struggling. I know how easy it is to hide beneath my shame and guilt instead of bringing it before You. And so God, today, we just confess those times when we’ve fallen short in our care for someone else. And we are so incredibly sorry for that. It bothers us so much. Would You help us to not let the failure prevent us from trying again? Give us the courage and the strength to keep reaching out to those who so desperately need a taste of Your grace and compassion. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
Thanks for being here with me today, my friend. I want you to know that I am praying for you as you care for those in your neck of the woods. I really am. And I would love to walk with you on that journey however I can. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know how.
Until next time…
ARE YOU READY TO C.A.R.E. COURAGEOUSLY?
Grab the Courageous Care Masterclass at www.lovedoesthat.org/care.
- Acts 9
- Psalm 32:5
- Psalm 38:18
- 1 John 1:9
- Deuteronomy 31:6
Friend, I’d love to encourage you as you encourage others. Here are two ways to get started:
1. SHOP ENCOURAGEMENT + SYMPATHY GIFTS
These are prayerfully-crafted gifts you can share with those you love as tangible expressions of care. Let your friend know she is not alone.
2. SCHEDULE A SPIRITUAL DIRECTION DISCERNMENT CALL
Interested in spiritual direction? Schedule a complimentary Discernment Call where we’ll talk about what’s weighing on your heart and identify next steps you can take to discern God’s direction.