Did you ever fail a test? An exam? A class?
Yes. Yes. Yes.
I liked Algebra II so much that I took it twice. Then ended up teaching Algebra.
"'Tis a lesson you should heed:
Try, try, try again.
If at first you don't succeed,
Try, try, try again."
- W. E. Hickson
In the words of Solomon, "Lay not wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; spoil not his resting place: for a just man falls seven times, and rises up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief." (Proverbs 24:15-16)
Ok, falling isn't failing. At least not exactly.
Failure is a lack of success.
A failure is an unsuccessful person. Or enterprise. Or thing.
To fail can mean to omit an action that was expected or required.
A failure can be the action or state of not functioning.
In the tale from American folklore called "The Little Engine That Could" there were many engines who were failures. It wasn't that they tried and failed. They failed to try. It was the little guy who succeeded at the big task while puffing out repeatedly the chug-a-chug-chug onomatopoeia, "I think I can. I think I can. I think I can."
There are so many trite expressions along these lines.
"Better to have tried and failed, than never to have tried at all." (Or maybe that is supposed to be, "Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." But, it's the same difference either way. Actually, the 1st version is attributed to Kathrine Kelly)
"Success has destroyed many more men than failure has" (a quote attributed to several famous people).
And of course, there is the quintissential motivational statement by Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Of course, failure is common. Anyone can fail. All of us fail. Even the most successful people fail. In fact, in most cases it takes failure first in order to find success.
In the most plain and obvious way—because we are not divine—failure is inevitable. To lack perfection, omniscience, and omnipotence is to be destined for failure.
This is why (of course) we are in need of divine intervention. Well, divine redemption to be exact.
God cannot fail. His word can't fail (Isaiah 34:16). He will never fail to care for His children. In Laminations 3:22 Jeremiah wrote, "It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not."
But I don't like failure. I don't want to fail. I don't want to become accustomed to failure. I'm very familiar with it, but I don't want to get used to it. To be nonchalant about it is to accept it. Getting frustrated won't help. Quitting isn't the right response. But being blasé about it isn't any better.
Jesus said to Peter, "I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not: and when you are converted, strengthen your brethren." (Luke 22:32). Now, Peter fell. Jesus prayed for his success. It took some initial face-plants first, but in the end Peter's faith came shining though. Oh the boldness of this man on Pentecost! Only 50 days earlier he had denied that even knew Christ. In fear and shame he had repeatedly avoided physical danger, only to plunge headlong into spiritual quagmire. Jesus knew about, forecasted, prayed for, and preemptively forgave Peter's failures.
In team sports it takes one team losing for another team to win. Success is relative. Nobody wins forever. Some win more than others. But all lose sometimes.
In life I find that the failures of one person allows for the successes of another. If my wife can't open the jelly jar (because she is such a delicate princess), I swoop in like a knight-in-shining-armor to flex my forearms and remove the lid with ease. Her failure breeds my success, and in the end our success. We learn to depend on each other. She compensates for my weaknesses by displaying her strengths. And vice versa. And so on it goes.
I am very acquainted with failure. Most of those failures are due to incompetence and foolishness. Some are a result of stubbornness and selfishness. And then there is the dark depravity of my evil heart. That's a thing too. Those failures are the worst.
But though failure is as sure as dawn and dusk, we must not surrender to it. We must rise up repeatedly and move forward. Defeat is not an option. At least, it shouldn't be. We can surrender territory and lose battles, but the war wages on; the war in which we are our own worst enemy.
The author of the book of Hebrews wrote, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled." (Hebrews 12:14-15).
What could it mean to fail of the grace of God? Well, it means to come up short. It means to lag behind. God's grace is sufficient. It is not lacking. He is never insufficient. Yet, often we don't cooperate fully with His work in us. So what happens? We fail. God gives us the way of escape. He gives us the strength to do well, but we abandon His provision. I abandon His provision. And every time I do, I fail. I don't just fail at the task at hand, I fail to avail myself of the success that is "living by grace through faith." I miss out on a win. I miss out an an opportunity to give the devil a black eye.
But my God will never fail. If nothing else, be reminded of THAT great truth. The repeated failures of men and women all around us (and especially our own failures) remind us that ultimately, only God can be trusted. It is vain, empty, futile, foolish for us to place our confidence in people. People fail. People fail us. God never does.