A few months ago, I was watching the news (aka scrolling on Facebook) and a friend of mine posted a picture of her weight loss journey. Interestingly, I had always known her as a fit person as she loved to hike and was regularly active. Her post showed one of those before and after pictures, kind of like the ones you see on any weight-loss advertisement promoting their product or method as the key to change. The best part about the post however, was not the strikingly different physical image but the inspirational words she wrote below the picture as she reflected on her personal journey toward health. Below the photo, she captured a series of words that helped her make the change and on that list was the word failure. I love that she called out failing as a part of the journey toward change.
This time of year, many of us enter into a season of reflection as we face the possibility of new year’s resolutions. Like my friend, your goals may be around health: getting to the gym, eating better, or finally seeing that therapist. The life-change you are seeking might be breaking a bad habit or getting your finances in order. You might want to be a better roommate, stop gossiping about your coworkers, or be more patient with your kids. Whatever it is, we resolve that this year will be different and life will be richer because we have the determination to pull it off.
Though there is a lot of talk about resolutions in January, I don’t often see people living out those same commitments in July. It made me wonder how long it is until we give up on ourselves and our aspirations for the coming year. An article by the New York Post reported that according to one study that day is January 12th. Not even 2 weeks into the new year and most of us have given up on the idea that we can change. This article went on to say that the reason most of us don’t keep our resolutions is based on unrealistic expectations. If we don’t expect that failure is part of the process, we won’t ever reach our goals.
Maybe your goal this year is to grow closer to God. Your relationship with Him might be something you had as a kid but it fell away when your parents stopped making you go to church and you don’t know how to start again. You might have made some bad decisions, and your shame has kept you from turning to Him because you feel like you have to have it all figured out before you can pray. Maybe you’ve been doing the Christian thing for a while but feel stuck in your faith and too embarrassed to share with your believing friends that God feels far away. Shouldn’t doing “quiet time” every day make me feel close to God?
Jesus knows of our tendency to quit at the first sign of failure. And because He is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), He is committed and able to bring about change in us when we don’t have the motivation to keep going. Romans 5:1-5 outlines His plan for growing us into the kind of people who continue despite our obstacles. Failure is transformed into an opportunity to live a life of endurance.
If you understand that making mistakes and missing the mark is a part of spiritual growth and something everyone experiences, you will be unstoppable. Endurance is the key to building character and endurance isn’t possible without something to endure. As you sense God working within you and you find yourself making new choices over time, you begin to trust the process. Hope is the believer’s weapon against failure. You may not always be perfect, but knowing God is able to work within our failures helps us start again. God is graceful, taking delight in blessing us when we don’t deserve it, when we haven’t arrived yet. That is why I’ve given Him my heart and trust Him to do the work within me when I see things in myself that I hate. I know He’s not judging me but cheering me on.
So this year, when you think about all the new year has in store for you and the inner work God is inviting you into, know that you will fail but you don’t have to quit. Don’t give up on the things God is working out within you. He will give you the hope and strength to keep going if you focus on Him and not your failures.