success or failure is none of your darn business

Posted: January 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

We get a ridiculous idea in our heads that says that God will only lead us to success – that somehow, if we are failing, God is not in it. I wonder where we come up with this ridiculous idea?  I am not aware of any scriptures that promise such a thing.  There is, however, scripture that promises, “in this world, you will have trouble.”  There are prayers in the Psalms that indicate fear, frustration, anger, defeat, hopelessness, and rage in the person who is following Him.  There is story after story in which the people do dumb things and make mistakes that have far-reaching consequences. 

We would do well to remember that, when we are floundering and asking God where He is.  We would do even better to remember it, when a friend is struggling and we are tempted to be like Job’s friends, saying, “You probably did it wrong,” and “He’s probably just giving you consequences.” 

Where He calls us to serve “the least of these,” there is ample opportunity for failure.  Ever tried to help an addict?  Ever tried to assist someone stuck in the poverty cycle with coming up and out of it?  Ever tried to work with someone who is stuck in broken thought patterns that are destructive to self and others?  Ever worked with troubled kids?  Ever developed a relationship with a prisoner or ex-prisoner?  You will find ample opportunity for failure.  You will invest your time and energy, only to find the desired results either  don’t come, or don’t stick.  You will pour your whole self into it, only to discover that no lasting change happens at all.  You will give everything you’ve got to offer, only to have it look like your everything got tossed in the dumpster without a thought.  I mean, these things will not ALWAYS happen, every time.  There might be success stories.  But generally, there will be at least as much “failure” as success – often the “failure” rate will dwarf the success by a lot. 

That doesn’t change the fact that He calls us to love,to give, to serve, to pour ourselves out.  He will call us, knowing that we will get hurt.  That it will cost us time we don’t feel like we have to “waste.”  That it will beat the hell out of our pride.  That in the end, the result might well look like failure, as measured by our own standards.

But since when did we have any right to set the standard of success?  God is the only one who knows the bigger picture.  He knows what He is doing with the investment of our obedience.  He can see outside the confines of time – he knows which seeds we plant that will grow, even after they have seemed to perish.  He knows the times and places where we think what we are doing is serving one purpose, but it’s actually for a whole other purpose of His own, completely dark and unknown to us.  He knows the times when what we are giving is purely to change ourselves, and not one other person or circumstance.  He knows when our chipping away is producing far, far bigger results than our tiny imaginations can begin to grasp.  He knows when our contact with a person is just one of a thousand that He has lined up. 

He knows, He knows, He knows.  This means He is the only one who can accurately measure success or failure.  We need to let go of the ridiculous thought that we are big enough to know. 

Did you get your feelings hurt when you ministered to someone?  Doesn’t mean it failed.

Did the person you helped go and run back to their addiction?  Doesn’t mean you failed.

Did you get shamed, embarrassed, humiliated in the process of being obedient?  That’s not failure.  That’s discomfort.

Did the end result come out the exact opposite of everything you hoped for?  You’re looking at a very small picture.  Throw your expectations in the garbage and trust what He is doing.

Don’t stop.  Don’t quit giving.  Don’t discontinue trying.  Keep on pouring yourself out.  When it fails, remember Who measures what failure is.  If He doesn’t send an angel to tell you in person that you failed, stop presuming that you did.  Trust Him.  It was never up to you in the first place.  You are not God. 

He’s not the God of little success stories that make sense to us – that’s not His main role.  He is the author of the entire story.  Stand back.  Let Him work.  And give up the panic train, already.

Unless you’ve got your heart set on holding your failure, of course.

  1. Laurie says:

    OH KAREN! This is rich! This is timely and this is from the Holy Spirit for my life. Thank you. The line that smacks me the most….well every paragraph…….but the statement:

    “He knows, He knows, He knows. This means He is the only one who can accurately measure success or failure. We need to let go of the ridiculous thought that we are big enough to know.”

    Church is cancelled today due to windy blowing snow and tanked temps so this was my first read – POW – God has a message since it won’t be the one I hear at church……but it is the one I needed this day.

    • karen says:

      Yay! So glad it speaks to you! I don’t set out to “smack” anyone, but God is free to lead people however He wishes, and if I get to be part of that…well…awesome!

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