Our Darkest Moments
What is Failure?
Failure is a means of discipline from God, so that we will learn, change, grow, and one day be in heaven with the salvation that Jesus' grace has promised us (see Hebrews 12:3-11). Failure must be experienced as our mark of endurance. And since the rain falls on the good and bad, no one is exempt.
It can be easy to give up, get angry, or handle things ourselves when things get tough. We think we know best by taking action, or doing the opposite of what God must be telling us to do if what He says doesn't seem to make sense. The last thing we want to do is fail at something. But after a season, we eventually are at a cross-roads: do we take God at His word or not? Will He deliver us or leave us to suffer alone? Therein lies the discipline and resulting lesson to be had in each failure faced.
Step by Step
While we may not be promised a clear path to heaven, the Bible does give instructions for what Christians can focus on, as a means of breaking free from feeling discouraged through trials. In Hebrews chapter 13, there is hope and a purpose to be had by following these six reminders as often as we can:
1. Stay Armed
Put on the spiritual armor of God, so that we are strong and have the tools/weapons needed to be successful/win. While invisible, such necessary preparations clothe the mind, guard the heart, and strengthen the spirit for handling temptations, frustrations, and losses. The way to obtain the armor is the spend time in God's word, delving deeply into the truths contained, applying them with our lives, and to pray without ceasing. It provides the courage, wisdom, and zeal needed to act - rather than hide from - whatever situations are at hand.
2. Live Peaceably
Be at peace with everyone, as much as it is up to us. Know that everyone is subject to God, not each other, so that when we do our part - to forgive or ask others or God for forgiveness - by faith, we are granted peace in ourselves and in our relationship with Christ. This doesn't mean we can be renewed in all relationships with others, since all are free to accept OR reject the forgiveness asked or offered, but it clears the way so that God's will may be hindered. What happens after that is beyond our control. We just have to walk closely with God, committing our relationships, or the absence of, with others into His care, believing that He sends people to us who help complete His will for our lives. Experiences with them, therefore, both good and bad, are not wasted, but serve a purpose. We just have to be open to seeing what that is, even if borne of pain or grief. Past that point is always a hope rekindled, something bigger and better, of that we are sure. Otherwise - why would Jesus have come to replace the old order of things and offer us something greater? So take heart, because we are striving for peace eternally, not temporally, and can't expect that being on this earth will at any time remain easy. Yet we rejoice through our many afflictions, because they mean we are gaining new awareness each time, which draws us closer to Him, and further from this world. It is good not to long for this world alone, because it will not stand eternally. God gives and takes away, but what He promises to give forever is life with Him (Hebrews 12:26-29).
3. Love Others
Love our neighbors as ourselves, be hospitable to strangers AND everyone we know as well, because we serve others in kindness as we would want to be shown in return. While it might be hard, we must also include the unseen - the prisoners and mistreated among us, since all have at one time been conflicted in deed or mind and could use assurance. Think: What would Jesus do?
4. Honor Marriage
Honor marriage by helping people we know who are married, and take the time to honor our own. Problems and temptations can happen to anyone at any time, so we all need to be alert to this truth and remain proactive in battling against problems before they begin, and encourage others to not be so quick to throw in the towel through tough times.
5. Serve God, Not Money
Don't live for money; rather, be content with what we possess. This coincides with being resourceful, so that every penny earned doesn't get spent on frivolity, and there is always room to give generously - either from finances, time, or skills. Whatever God has blessed us with, we are to share, and with thanksgiving, because God loves cheerful givers!
6. Honor Leaders
Respect spiritual leaders strive to have faith like theirs, recognizing that Jesus is their motivation and ours. Support them through prayers, gifts, and affirmations of the roles they place in our lives. Many religious organizations choose to publicly recognize spiritual leaders during Clergy Appreciation Month, on holidays. After all, spiritual leaders are people just like us, but who are driven to regularly put themselves in uncomfortable, hazardous, or time-consuming situations all in the name of the Lord. It can be easy to take them for granted, and they may not receive the true appreciation and honor they deserve for being God's servants.
When Motivation Fades
Because emotions ebb and flow, there will come a time when doing the above steps brings more hassle than peace. There will be days when we just don't feel like taking action because our failures overcome us. That sort of resistance amplifies our humanity, bringing every sort of vulnerability to the surface. God realizes this and offers us a solution IN the form of what we might be hesitant to do. You see, when we start to lose our armor, as a result of not spending time with God, we continue to get distracted by the cares of this world. That restlessness destroys lasting peace, leaving no room for loving ourselves, much less those around us who are part of our churches or family. Eventually, it makes respecting those who try to guide us in how we live, work, spend, or serve most difficult because we can't appreciate the source everything experienced is derived from (namely Christ). When we consistently allow neglect (and disappointment) to crowd out our goals, we lose focus on our purpose to serve God and each other, until driven by mere rote on a daily basis.
The only way to rebound from failure and not remain apathetic is to never stop going back through the process of finding God each time we get beat down. All He asks at any time is to take that first step, and then He meets us right where we are in order to point us to lesson behind the discipline and make something beautiful of even the darkest of our moments.
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