If at First You Don’t Succeed… The Crippling Fear of Failure

“If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.”

I’m pretty sure everyone has heard this quote at one point or another. I remember seeing it on a poster in my 3rd grade classroom years ago.

Is it sound advice? Yes, I think so.

But in all honesty, I’ve never really lived by this motto, even since birth.

My mom told me the story about when I first started walking. I took a few wobbly steps while hanging onto the table.

But as soon as I let go, I fell.

I was maybe 6-8 months old at the time.

I quickly returned to crawling. It was effective enough and certainly less painful.

Somehow, I ended up learning to walk by the age of 13 months. But my response to failure as a baby has carried on for the last nineteen years.

Growing up, I was always tall. At age 2, I was 3 foot. By the end of Kindergarten, I was 51 inches tall. Maybe that accounts for some of my awkwardness and being so off-balance. Maybe not.

Here’s a confession and regret that I’ve carried throughout life: I can’t ride a bike.

I remember riding a bike with training wheels when I was younger. But I never rode a bike without them. I didn’t like the idea of getting hurt or falling. It just wasn’t worth it.

Today, I’ll ride an exercise bike, but that’s about it.

That fear of failure (and falling) has followed me through life.

I never went on the monkey bars until I was tall enough to reach them from the ground. I’ve never made it the whole way around a skating rink (I nearly wiped out, trying to let go of the rails so a 3-year-old could get around me!) And I’ve never made it to the top of a rock climbing wall, or past the first five steps, for that matter.

Fear of failure doesn’t stop there. It leaks its way into every facet of life.

Anything I struggle with, I quit. Anything that doesn’t come naturally, I quit.

That fashion show in 3rd grade. That computer project in 4th grade. That photography contest in 6th grade.

One try, and if it goes horribly, I’m done. I’ve packed my bags and vowed never to go down that same humiliating road again.

I’ve been told several times to not be a “quitter” and that “can’t” is not a word that should be in my dictionary.

Maybe you’ve struggled with this too?

I’ve given in to the fear of failure time and time again.

But one time, I had a breakthrough.

A few years back, I sent in a blog post to a popular Christian website. It was sent back to me with suggestions for improvements and a list of qualities they wanted to see in articles for their website.

At first, I started going into my cycle of “I quit”. My pride had been crushed.

But then, I began to realize that the feedback was 100% true. There was a lot of room for improvement, so I waited a while, prayed a while, and gave it another try.

Had I quit, I doubt you’d be reading this post today.

What made the difference?

I feel like God has given me talent for writing. (I admit I have absolutely none when it comes to riding bikes or skating!) This is what God’s calling me to do.

The rejected blog post reminded me of my dependency on God. When I tried to write a blog or ride a bike on my own strength, I failed. If God was in it and I gave my best, things went better.

That’s not to say that everything God calls us to do is going to be easy. But with God, all things are possible (Luke 1:37).

As Ephesians 3:20 (NLT) says,

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

When we humbly rely on God, we don’t have to be afraid of failing. That doesn’t mean we’ll never hit dead ends or have to try again, but rather that we never have to go it alone.

No matter what the outcome of our situation, God remains the same and our identity in Him remains the same.

What has fear of failure kept you from doing? What do you feel like God is calling you to do?

Summer is a great time to reflect on life and the desires that God has given us. Don’t let fear hold you back from living, like I have for so many years.

Chains Will Break

“But I do the very thing I hate…”

Sin is always so appealing. Whether it’s cheating on an exam to get that grade you want, stretching the truth to earn trust or approval, spreading gossip, it could be anything. The attraction lies in the benefit. A satisfaction seemingly so good that boundaries are crossed, mistakes are made, lies are told, tracks are covered, and consequences are ignored. A temptation that is so strong that we no longer care what is right or wrong and then we cave in.

I know I can relate to this. I try to break a habit and soon find myself returning to the very habit I was trying to break. I understand the error of my action, realize the mistake, and what do I do? The very sin I thought about and considered the error of. Why? Why do I return to my sin? Why do we do what is wrong even though we’re aware of the error? But the more concerning question is, even though I make the same mistake over and over, can I still find forgiveness?

About 2000 years ago, Paul wrote a letter to the Romans that holds undeniable truth that is relevant still today. A letter that sparked a revolutionary fire in many souls through the message it shares. A Gospel message of conviction, redemption, and freedom. In the middle of this letter, Paul shares with us something I believe we all can relate to. Romans 7:14-15 says, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Here, in this Scripture, Paul expresses his understanding of the very same issue I face.

We all struggle with sin. I mean, Paul, a well known apostle and example for the Christian faith confessed to this, which is proof that even the strongest heart faces times of weakness. The expectations of God lie within our Spiritual strength and persistence, but this world we live in and the bodies we’ve been given have been stolen by sin. The flesh in which we reside is a weak, disobedient, sin-tainted flesh. A flesh that is bound and destined to make mistakes.

So, now that we have an idea of why we continue life in sin, we need to consider the next question. Is there hope for us to hold on to?

I sure hope so, because if there isn’t, then I’ve got a lot to worry about! The beauty of the cross is the sacrifice made for my sins (and yours). The renewed grace, mercy, and love of God are given to us unconditionally. Well. There is one condition: That it is received. God knew that we would stumble and He knew that we would make mistakes. That’s the whole point of the death and resurrection of Christ. The fulfillment of a promise of hope and restoration. A works-based faith doesn’t work because our sinful nature makes it impossible for us to be “good enough,” and what a relief that is! Praise God that we don’t have to meet that requirement on our own, because I know my track record certainly speaks of my inability to. All we have to do is ask for and receive the forgiveness He has for us. The robes of Christ cover our sins. When we ask for forgiveness, we are no longer responsible for due judgement. The wrath of God was satisfied by the blood of Jesus, and, as Paul later mentions in Romans, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” NOTHING can EVER separate us from the work of Christ so long as we are willing to accept the free gift offered to us.

That covers two questions. Now that we are beginning to understand why we continue to sin and have reflected on the forgiveness always available to us, there is one more question to answer. How do I respond to all of this?

Despite the forgiveness we receive, sometimes we still hold on to a feeling of guilt, or maybe even God-given conviction. The consequences of our sins still remain. Lies can hurt and actions have consequences. How can we begin to heal if we have to face the result of our sin? Despite what you may feel, keeping it secret is not the answer. I am convinced that silence is a tool of the Enemy to keep us from true Spiritual healing. Silence is a fear-driven response. To find peace and joy, there is only one answer, especially when considering those sins which are exceptionally binding. To confess. James 5:16 says to us, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Though it might be the most terrifying option, there has never been a time that I regretted bringing my sin to light. Every instance brought forth a response of love and acceptance, but more importantly, people who are willing to walk with me and carry me when it gets hard and when I stumble. Even if there is healing for our mistakes, should we live like they don’t matter? Again, we can look at Paul, in Romans 6:1-2, where he responds to this very question with, “By no means!” Instead, we should follow the direction of 2 Timothy 2:22 which tell us to, “Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

So, don’t let yourself be discouraged by the struggles you face. There is forgiveness. Don’t let your sins be kept in secret. In confession is healing and unmatched peace, joy, and freedom through the prayer and support of those who love you. Break the chains that bind you through the strength of the Lord. Lean on those around you, and know that as I type this, I am praying for this message to reach into the depths of your heart and soul that you may find the abundant love of Christ and grow in ways you never thought possible.

When it Rains, it Pours…

Sometimes, things just don’t seem to go right.

This week has been one for the books. Between failed experiments in lab, questioning friendships, midterms, and a host of other things, life has been one heck of a storm. Honestly, it feels like nothing has gone right in a long time. My plans failed and my schedule was completely trashed aside from my classes. And all of this leaves me with one question…

What is going on?

When one unexpected thing comes after another, it can feel like there’s no use in trying to make more plans or make adjustments to fix the current situation. But. I think there might be some beauty in this realization. How often are we apt to take on more commitments than we can handle? To say yes to more than we realize? To load up our calendar with an impressive list of interests, activities, and one-on-one time with friends? The answer for me would have to be, “far too often.”

Now the question we have left with is, “What do I do now?”

The first and most cliché answer I can give you is to lay your worries at the feet of the Lord. In the Gospel of Matthew we find a very direct question to ask ourselves, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” While there is scientific evidence that could suggest that letting the overwhelming events and concerns of life is not adding time to your life, I think there is something else to consider. At what point in time has worry added to the minutes of enjoyable life you have had the opportunity to experience? Here, I’ll give you a hint.

It hasn’t.

While it is important to not worry, there is a difference between worry and concern. As I advise you not to be filled with worry, I also want to say to you that having zero concern is just as dangerous. If you have exams, study for them. If your friends need you, talk to them. If you have something going on in your family, love them and offer support, but know that everything in this world is working together for good and not for evil. Remember, also, that if things go wrong, it isn’t the end of it all (and for those of you staring Spring Break in anxious anticipation, don’t let anything that may happen this week get in the way of enjoying your break).

God is holding all things together and working to magnify Himself. He is working for your good and His glory, and if He loves you so dearly that He would be willing to lay down the life of His only son, what, do you think, would ever be able to get in the way of that? I’ll give you another hint.

Nothing.

So go on this week knowing that God is behind every step you take, mistake or otherwise, to remind you of His sovereign and steady hands.

Victory for the Broken

Is Weakness an Obstacle or a Means of Victory?

It seems that the toughest realizations and the worst situations are what bring the greatest strength. There are times where I have felt incredibly distant. Far away. Unreachable. Interestingly enough I almost reveled in my sadness. In fact, I celebrated it, really. I embraced my anxieties. It turns out, though, that those deep set issues were not something to sulk in or encourage, but something I need to fight and release.

Once we conquer the demons that control us, we are set free from our inner bondage. When we can learn to let go of our biggest fears, conquer our insecurities, and overcome what we cannot let go of, we experience a freedom that is incomprehensibly refreshing. Of course, letting go of the dreams and desires that hold us back is no easy task. In fact, it takes an incredible amount of brokenness to show us what needs replaced. In order for me to understand what I have failed in doing, what was haunting me the most, and how to fix it, I had to face the shattered reality in which I live.

Christ doesn’t tell us that life is going to be easy. That the life we live will be a walk of constant joy and satisfaction. Christ does offer incredible comfort when we experience these lows, though. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says,

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Wow.

What an amazing statement. The all-sufficient grace of God is greater than our weaknesses. It’s crazy to think that nothing we do is sufficient enough to properly handle anything. We are weak in the flesh, but through Grace, we find power in Christ. When we are weak, what we accomplish through the faithfulness of God magnifies Him in our life. What a reason to celebrate!! Through our darkest moments, hopelessness may not be the only thing we find, but instead, something far more astounding…hope, peace, and freedom.

Before you give up hope, before you succumb to your greatest fears, before you let someone else dictate your life, and before you decide it’s no longer worth it, do some soul searching. Maybe what you are desiring is not what you truly want. It’s possible what you fear the most, in reality, is like the monster under your bed…unbearably terrifying, but easily overcome once you begin to see the truth. So before you decide you can no longer handle it, think, pray, cry, understand, and then remember that, in the power of Christ, you need not be strong to find victory. You can beat what hurts you the most. Afterward, what you will find is a new opportunity to live the life you were designed to live. Free from fear and hopeful in your future.

Fresh Encouragement for a New Start

Opportunity can be Overwhelming…

It’s the start of a new semester and we’re starting our second full week back from break. We’ve started new classes in new schedule with some new friends, and for some of us we started life in a new room. After three weeks of rest I would argue that there is something refreshing about coming back to campus to meet up with friends and prepare for a new set of challenges. Unfortunately, though, these new opportunities don’t come without cost. Some of us are staring at the hardest semester of our college career right in the eyes, some of us will be filled with new anxieties, others will fight to maintain academic performance, fail to balance social and school life, and some will just struggle.

I know some of you reading this are trying to understand what my point is or why I would bother to dig any of that up. The truth is, at first, I had no idea why I did either. In the end, that might just be the point. With so much “new” being thrown on our plate we can get lost and overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all. It’s so easy to worry. While I hate to be the bearer of cliché suggestions, when these challenges come your way, the best place to turn to is God.

When you’re anxious: Psalm 43:5, Matthew 6:34, Philippians 4:6-7

When it feels like what you’re doing isn’t good enough: 2 Corinthians 12:9, Romans 8:39, Psalm 138:8

And, of course, never be afraid to go to your friends, or even your professors, when you just need a friend, because “…if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:12).

Whether it’s just another semester or the final semester leading up to the rest of your life, we’re all experiencing some kind of change approaching at breakneck speed. And if it gets to be too much, never be hesitant to ask for prayer.

Many blessings to you all as we start another semester!!

Photo taken and edited by Zach Bevins