The promotion didn't happen. The relationship suddenly ended. The project you were waiting for was cancelled. You feel defeated.
There are some hard-earned lessons from history, from people who faced failure, but who also saw their lives turned around – even when that would have seemed impossible. There's no better time than now to look at some of those lessons and to see what's possible.
Peter, one of Jesus' disciples, was so fearful that in three instances he denied knowing Jesus. Peter's clarity about God's unfailing presence and power was a fortress to him as he walked his way, step by step, back to his dominion. It enabled him to pick himself up from defeat and continue with an open heart to be of value and service to God.
Sometimes it doesn't happen like fireworks, but God is always renewing purpose, giving fresh ideas, and revealing progress. What encouragement and hope are expressed in these words from the Bible: "The Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed" (Deut. 31:8).
Grounded in this promise, each of us can feel success. With heartfelt acceptance of it come grace, strength, and uprightness, which save from any kind of downfall.
A number of years ago, the institution where I worked went through a transition. Staff positions and job descriptions were changing with a lot of ambiguity. While other staff members were getting nicely settled into positions, I couldn't find my place. I felt so downtrodden that these words of Job rang true: "My familiar friends have forgotten me" (Job 19:14).
I prayed simply for the next few days, ¨God, give me light.¨ I was asked to do an assignment on the opposite coast for an indefinite period of time. Was I being shipped out?
When I had to make a decision in a few hours, I quietly opened my Bible with honest desire and turned to another passage from the book of Job: "Should it be according to thy mind? he will recompense it, whether thou refuse, or whether thou choose" (34:33). Even though I didn't know the context of this verse, it spoke worlds to me.
I saw that it was only God who recompenses. My success wasn't in what I refused or chose to do. It was in my willingness to turn to God in prayer, put aside my opinions about failure or success, and listen to and follow God's direction. As I was doing this, instantly the decision to accept this assignment fell in line with this spiritual realization. I had a fulfilling transition period, after which I left the institution for a different line of work.
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, wrote, "Remember, thou canst be brought into no condition, be it ever so severe, where Love has not been before thee and where its tender lesson is not awaiting thee. Therefore despair not nor murmur, for that which seeketh to save, to heal, and to deliver, will guide thee, if thou seekest this guidance" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," pp. 149-150).
There is no failure that can't be reversed by a purity of heart that seeks God's unfailing power in all conditions and circumstances.
When I said,
My foot slippeth;
thy mercy, O Lord, held me up.
In the multitude
of my thoughts within me
thy comforts delight my soul.
Psalms 94:18, 19