Failing at something is hard. It can either make you or break you. It almost broke me. I recently had a big failure moment that was soul crushing. But God used this life moment to teach me some great lessons in how to look at failure as something to learn from not something to be defeated by. I wanted not just to survive through this failure, I wanted to thrive through this moment of failure.
Here’s the story of my moment of failure.
“I have to make this work.” I thought to myself blinking furiously at my computer screen. It was 2:30am and my to do list was still 3 solid pages long and growing every day. My list was full of all the to do’s of a woman running a Family and Kids Ministry organization and working to be Mom and Wife of the year. It felt like I had barely made a dent in it that week. My contact lenses were drying out because I had been wearing them for about 9 hours straight.
The kids were sound asleep and my husband was in bed too. But me? I was up, trying to make all the things happen. Trying to juggle all the plates while squashing down all the emotional baggage that surrounded my striving. Still, I pushed through until I was so tired I felt nauseous. Not until then, did I go to bed only to wake up the next morning and do it all again.
After a couple of months’ worth of my days looking like this, my church and I, begrudgingly, decided I would no longer continue as the Family Ministry Director for New Life Fellowship. This change for me was not what I wanted but everything I knew I needed at the time. So, it felt like failure.
The ministry was growing and thriving but I was not. I was withering and dying inside. I had a choice to make. I could continue to do the work I’ve been doing, and continue “trying to make it work.” Or I could step away from something I have poured my blood, sweat and tears into and discover what God was trying to communicate to me through this transition. I chose the latter and learned some great tips to thriving through moments of failure.
3 Keys to Thrive Through Moments of Failure
1.Listen to Your Limits
One of the most important things you need to do to thrive through moments of failure is to listen to your limits.
Whether you want to believe this or not, you are not God. You have limits. And quoting Philippians 4:13 does not negate the fact that you have limits. Even Jesus had to live within the human boundaries and took time to rest.
But me, I ignored all the signs and symptoms of me working beyond my limits. My hustle and work ethic became my salvation. I pushed and pushed to achieve goals I had set for myself and my ministry and drowned in the end.
God is always speaking to us. He speaks to us through others and through our own bodies and selves. I ignored my limits and saw them as things to overcome instead of things to pay attention to and learn from.
Learning to listen to your limits will help you thrive through moments of failure and transition.
Here is an example of a quiet reflection I posted on recently.
2.Name the Lies
To thrive through moments of failure you need to be able to name the lies.
Sometimes when you fail at something you begin to come up with all sorts of reasons why you messed up or failed at it. Your mind starts going through all the reasons why things didn’t’ go the way you planned. Eventually they turn into negative statements you begin to believe about yourself. We inevitably connect our failure to some sort of deficiency or inadequacy on our part. This is so toxic.
For a while, this happened to me. It was a never ending dark night of the soul. It took me a while before I realized that these things I was thinking—that I wasn’t good enough, that I’ll never do anything worthwhile—were all lies.They were absolutely not true. Once I began to recognize and name a lie when I heard it, that was the moment when my perception on all that I saw and did changed. I didn’t have to believe the lie and I didn’t have to prove that they weren’t true. I knew they weren’t.
Instead I began to shift my focus to God and realized that even if I never do another great thing in ministry, or even if I didn’t make my kids lunches in the shape of Olaf from Frozen, even if I did no other great thing in the eyes of others, I am deeply loved and I am enough.
Don’t believe the lies. To thrive through moments of failure means you name it as a lie and counter it with truth.
3. Ask for Help
During major life transitions and difficult times, it can be hard to step back and see the big picture. This happened to me during this time. I got lost in my own thoughts and unmet expectations and couldn’t see past my failure.
Usually, we think a good self-help book can help us through this. Or if I just read scripture and pray more I will be just fine. But what we don’t realize is that we begin reading these things through the skewed lenses we received in our childhood or in our life experiences.
I learned that I needed to reach out to talk to someone to help me sift through all the thoughts and events of my life. I needed an “outsiders” perspective on what I was hearing, determining and perceiving from my current life events. Whether it’s a really wise and good friend, or a therapist we need an outside voice helping us to listen to our limits, name the lies and offer a new perspective on life.
I began to see a counselor regularly. And it was during this time that I had encounter after encounter with the Lord as he began using my counselor to meet me where I was. She helped me clear out the gunk that was sitting on my “life’s lenses” to see what I couldn’t see or didn’t notice, and how to move forward towards healing and towards living fully in the love and acceptance of God.
This wasn’t an easy thing for me. Counseling was not something that I grew up seeing as “appropriate for Christians.” But it was the best decision I made that lead me to thrive during a hard time of failure.
Failure can be so hard to work through. Some are crushed by it. I almost was. But by the grace of God I learned some things along the way to help me not just survive failure but to thrive in it. You too can thrive by simply listening to your limits, naming the lies and asking for help. When you focus on these three things and with the help of Jesus, you will be prepared to handle any failure that comes your way.
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