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Tossing Aside Failure for Hope

Tossing Aside Failure for Hope

In early May, I drove out to an Amish greenhouse and purchased a hanging flower basket to brighten up my front porch. I’ve hung baskets other years, but this one looked particularly lovely. My neighbor texted to tell me she loved the blossoms by my front door, and I enjoyed seeing them as I came and went with my hectic life.

I remembered to water them … at first. But, along the way, it slipped my mind once or twice. Then we had some really hot days here in Pennsylvania. Then I forgot to water a few a more times.

That basket still hangs by my front door, but what was once beautiful is now just a plastic container holding a pile of kindling. Maybe it wasn’t entirely my fault. (It’s been an extremely hot month!) Nevertheless, my flowers are dead. The silly thing is that, instead of taking the basket down or replacing it, I’ve left it there for any passerby to see my failure.

In the past, I’ve struggled with assuming that God is setting me up for failure for the sake of a lesson. But I don’t believe that is biblical. He is gracious and does not delight in our disappointment and frustration. Rather He works in, through and in spite of failures.

God uses the experiences of living in a fallen, sinful world—a world in which we are not sovereign and in which our plans rarely pan out exactly as anticipated—to shape us, teach us and ultimately point us back to Him. That’s probably something we’ve all heard a thousand times. But do we believe it enough to live in light of the hope found in this truth?

Even in the midst of our shame and in spite of our worst assumptions about ourselves, God uses our failures to redeem us, refine us and reveal aspects of His own character. And, rather than condemning us to self-pity or self-deprecation, He calls us to embrace the hope and redemption He offers.

This last year and a half of disruptions, pauses and changes might feel like failure. Maybe your short-term trip was cancelled or your arrival on the field was delayed. Or perhaps, in hindsight, you wish you would have used your time differently or had made different plans.

Our perception of failure plays a big role in how we appreciate God’s ability to teach us, cultivate growth in us and pour out His grace to help us through those rough patches. Inevitably, we will fail. Our plans will fall through. But it is not the end. Disappointment and change are not the final lesson. God’s grace is revealed in the hope, wisdom, knowledge and experience we accumulate by facing hardship. This grace urges us not to dwell in dismay, but to turn to Him, repent if necessary and abide in Him.

My prayer for all of you is that God will set you free from any shame you carry from failures with the hope found in His grace—the same hope that you love to tell others about. You get to have hope too. You get to throw away dead flower baskets and replace them without embarrassment. You don’t have to wear your failure like a badge.

Despite mistakes, we can freely experience God’s grace and forgiveness. Refreshment and renewal are available to us in Christ. We have hope that even when things aren’t going well, the Lord is our help and redemption. We can be at peace with unfulfilled plans or unexpected disappointment. God is still present in them.

Embrace the hope He offers. 

Laura lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where she freelances in various capacities, leads worship at her church and hangs with her adorably photogenic dog named Kimchi. She’s well acquainted with the chaos of trying to determine what to do in life.

Laura went to Bible college, where she explored cross-cultural ministry through classes, conferences and lots of practical application. After college she went to grad school, taught, went to South Korea for a year, worked for Christar, then spent a good chunk of the last decade working with international students in high school and college in the U.S.

She would love to journey with you as you consider missions—because she’s been there. Because reaching the nations is going to look different than it did in centuries past. And she wants you to be a part of it.

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