Failure. We all know that word. In fact, the majority of us probably fear that word. We fear that we will step foot into work one day and fail. Students, like myself, are afraid that we will fail classes and not succeed or even graduate. We also allow failure into our spiritual lives. Sometimes God calls us to do something, and we may even want to do it, but the idea of failure causes us to turn away. What if we say that God “calls” us to do something, but then things don’t work out right, does that mean God didn’t call us?
I have a personal testimony about this. Failure is always something that I have feared. Growing up I wasn’t very confident because I was always afraid I would fail. This past semester at Malone University was one of the hardest semesters of college I have had yet. I was taking 18 credit hours as well as becoming more involved with campus groups and friend groups. There was one class, New Testament, that I strived so hard to do well in. In the beginning of the semester I studied hours for the tests, but I still got poor grades. It came to a point where I would get a test grade back, see that it was not the grade I was expecting, and end up crying in my boss’s office (who serves as a mentor as well) or in my dorm room.
I let this overcome me. I talked to upperclassmen that had taken classes with the same professor and they said they also struggled with the same class. Now this made me feel a little better, but I have always set high goals for myself (Pastor Carrie can attest to that). In order to reach my goal I needed to do better in the class. I also felt as though I needed to do well in the course because it was a Bible class! It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the subject because I certainly did! I enjoyed talking with my classmates about what I was learning, as well as helping my friends that were just taking a survey of the whole Bible class, not New Testament study.
My goal was to get an “A” in the course. I had several reasons for this. First, an “A” would look very nice on my transcript and keep my GPA in the Bible/Ministry Department at a perfect 4.0. Second, I am one who feels like a failure if I get anything less than that. However, after the first part of the semester was over, and I saw my grade in the class was at a low “C” during midterms, I realized that an “A” may not be possible. So I started to strive for the next best thing, a “B+”. I also desired to get at least one “A” on one of the exams. There were three exams left to take. You can bet your bottom dollar that I spent more time studying for New Testament than I did on any of my other classes! I took two of the three tests and still got high “C’s” on them, no matter how hard I studied. Finally, for the last exam, I started studying two weeks in advance. I made notecards, read the textbook, took notes on the textbook, highlighted my notes from class, had friends quiz me (who weren’t in the class), and studied with those who were in the class.
I was so anxious to take the exam. I studied so hard and put forth so much effort. If I got a low grade I knew that I would feel defeated. If I got a bad grade I knew that I would feel like I failed in the class, even though I wouldn’t have the letter grade of “F”. I showed up to the classroom earlier than I wanted to, but I felt like I couldn’t look at the material anymore or I might confuse myself. Instead of going into the classroom, I sat outside and waited for more time to pass by. The minutes ticked by slowly, but my anxiety rose quickly. I prayed and asked God to just give me peace. I asked Him to help me get the grade I wanted on this exam. A friend of mine was going to a class in the classroom next to mine and I stopped him before he went in and asked him to pray over me. He prayed that instead of me just getting an “A” on the exam, that I would get the grade I deserved for the amount of study time I put into the exam. The time came and I went into the classroom. The professor handed out the exam and I started to get worried because the test was not in the format that all of the other tests were in. However, I had an answer for every question and knew what each question was talking about.
Since it was the last class, the professor would not be handing back our exams personally, but if we wanted to know our grades we were more than welcome to email him. I was going to wait until the end of the week to email him because I knew how long it took him to grade. But a day later I was in the same building waiting to take another final and I saw him walking in the hall and quickly asked him if he had our tests graded. He said he did and then asked me to follow him to his office so that he could tell me my grade. When he told me what my grade was I nearly passed out. I reached my goal of getting and “A” on a New Testament exam. I was so filled with joy over this. The only thing I could do was just praise God! I ended the class with a “B” as my overall grade!
Now friends, just like every other blog, I am not just sharing this story with you just because. I am telling you this because this is a time when I felt like a failure no matter how hard I tried. Eventually, I just trusted God that if I put in the effort and did the work, then I would be able to succeed. And if I still didn’t meet my goal, than that would be okay too because my worth is not in my actions and grades.
You see, I tried so hard to get the grade I wanted in that class that, each time I “failed” at meeting my own personal goal, I stepped up my game for the next time. This is what failure does. We can’t just let our failures DEFINE us, we have to let them REFINE us! This means taking a step back, asking God to reveal to you a new way of doing things (HIS WAY), asking God for strength, and trusting God that He is going to help you through what He has called you to do!
Currently in my life, I am called to be a student. Sometimes that may be easy, but for the most part, it involves a lot of work. If I would have just let the low grades I first received on my exams in New Testament define me, I most likely would not have met my goal of getting an “A” on the final exam.
This happened in the Old Testament too! It is Biblical Friends! Check out Pastor Aaron’s sermon “Courage Unleashed!: Turning Failure Into Victory” on PAG’s podcast to see how Joshua and the Israelites turned their failure into victory!
Friends, we are all going to encounter failure in our lives at some point in time. Do not let it take you off the path God has marked out for you. Remember, that no matter what happens, God is still God and He is greater than all!
College Student, Writer, Blogger