The Blessing of Failure


Like Anna in Frozen, much of my adulthood has been a series of doors in my face. Apparently God’s personal plan for me revolves around learning to deal graciously with disappointment and failure. For most of my life, the fear of failure kept me locked inside myself. If I wasn’t confident of a good result, I usually didn’t try. Now I understand that you have to try, because it expands you and makes you stronger and braver. You have to ask for what you want, because if you don’t, no one will know. You have to love, even if it breaks your heart. I continue to put myself out there, to keep my dreams alive, because I believe it’s the healthiest move regardless of the outcome. But I’ve stopped expecting success. I carry the knowledge that anything is possible right alongside a long history of things that didn’t work out.

If you read any of that in a mental Eeyore voice, you’d be wrong. When I say that probably nothing will come of an opportunity, I’m simply stating a fact from many years of banging my head against brick walls. Sure, sometimes I get angry or feel sorry for myself… even though I’m already more privileged than most of the world. It’s easy to lose perspective when I feel surrounded by charismatic (or just well-connected) people who seem to live charmed lives. It’s especially frustrating when they attribute it all to “God’s favor,” making you wonder if you were in the bathroom when that was being handed out. Or when people assure you that God is just waiting for the right time to open doors for you, even though He never promised us that. But I’m slowly making peace with my struggles. Sometimes I’m even thankful for them.

My whole upbringing was pointed toward becoming a wife and mother. I foolishly made zero preparations for a long-term fulfilling career, extensive living alone, or being single at 34. So after my marriage chewed me up and spit me out, I prayed, Okay God, You’ll just have to give me the tools to do this. I actually imagined myself under a car and God handing me wrenches and ratchets one at a time, a picture that continues to stick with me. And you know what? He’s still doing it. Lately I feel extra capable, like whatever happens, I can handle it. That’s a gift that the life I wanted would not have given me… along with other gifts, like increased compassion, more humility, the ability to see and validate others for whom the big things don’t come easily. Standing as proof to people with similar wounds that you can survive. Learning to trust God differently. Participating in Jesus’s suffering, in a tiny way, and relating to Him better through it.

We call people blessed when they marry well, bring children into their families, go on that big trip, get the dream job, get the book deal. I may never have any of those things, but when I reflect on what I do have, I still feel blessed. I really do. My blessings aren’t happy fun ones, but they’re transforming me for the better day by day. Though it would be tempting, I don’t think I’d trade where I am now for where I’d be if I’d never had to wait or fight for anything. I don’t think God has abandoned or “disfavored” me. He’s just called me to a different sort of path, and He’ll keep handing me the tools I need to walk it.

About Brenda W.

Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister's iced tea. View all posts by Brenda W. →
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14 Responses to The Blessing of Failure

  1. Sarah says:

    I truly believe that God leads us down roads as learning experiences, which ultimately provide us with tools to use our experiences to reach out and share the gospel with others. It irritates me a little when someone has something great happen to them & their auto-response is that it happened because “they’re blessed”… And yes. That good thing IS a blessing… But guess what, Susie, if that’s the case, you also need to remember that losing your job, having your car break down, and staring down the barrel of an unhealthy relationship are also blessings. Because they are. I would be willing to step out on a limb and say that the bad/tough/undesirable things we encounter are MORE OF A BLESSING than the fortunes most people brush off as “blessings.” The tough things God has helped me through has enriched my life by making me stronger, more resilient, and given me an invaluable perspective.

    Blessings abound! It’s all about whether or not we want to recognize them as such.

  2. thebeccaoh says:

    I LOVE this. :) I have a big problem with the phrase “we are so blessed” in regards to finances/career, etc., and I’m thankful that people are moving away from this point of view. I know you and i have talked about this at length, so you know I agree with your thoughts wholeheartedly.

    I don’t know if you’re a sermon-listener (like, listening to podcasts), but if you are, you should check out some sermons from my church. I’ll message you the link sometime. :)

  3. Lance Conn says:

    I take extreme issue with this statement: “Apparently God’s personal plan for me revolves around learning to deal graciously with disappointment and failure.” If my daughter ever muttered any of this nonsense I’d give her a firm kick in the rear. God doesn’t act this way. God doesn’t sit up in heaven and determine that your life should be miserable. Get out of that reformed theology because it’s making you sick in the head. God’s personal plan for you is for you is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. That all starts with you loving yourself.

    • Brenda W. says:

      I think you misunderstood me. I do love myself and I definitely try to live in the way you’re describing, and agree that’s what God wants for us. But it’s a fact that I have had a lot of disappointment and failure in my life. The point of this post is that I’m trying to focus on how God has blessed me in unexpected ways even though my life isn’t a success in the traditional sense.

      • Lance Conn says:

        That statement makes it sound like you believe that God planned for your life to be full of disappointment. I honestly hope you don’t believe that. I see how you talk about blessing, but please don’t start with an understanding that God planned those bad things from the beginning.

        • Brenda W. says:

          No, I don’t believe God causes bad things. But I do believe His choice to allow certain situations, or not intervene, must mean that there’s a purpose for them and/or they have important things to teach me. Also, I wouldn’t say I’m miserable. I have a lot to be happy about and I believe God cares about our happiness. But I don’t want to build my life on a false expectation that eventually He’s going to make all my dreams come true. That seems dangerous and sort of turns God into a vending machine.

  4. Carol says:

    This reminds me of an article I just read. I think Esther linked to it, but I’m not sure. Anyway, God never promised any of us a good job or a fancy car or a spouse or a fill-in-the-blank, but so many of us act like those things are blessings. And they are, but so is our health. So is the fact that we’re saved. And even people in other countries, countries where they have very little wealth or worldly possessions are blessed, but in different ways. God loves us, and teaches us His lessons, but He uses different methods for each of us.

  5. Calling someone Blessed is usually just our way of saying lucky. It makes us unaware of that green-eyed monster we are really fighting.

    You are incredible and your life is an incredible testimony of God’s providence. Hugs! Have a great weekend!

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Brenda..I can relate to what you wrote.

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