Have you ever failed so badly at something that you became very discouraged and fearful, or refused to try again? I know
that I have! I have failed more times and at more things than I can count.
I remember failing my driver’s test twice before I finally succeeded and got my license. The first failure was bad enough and left me pretty down and discouraged, but I managed to pick myself up and try again after receiving incredible support and encouragement from my family. The second failure was almost too much to bear. The thought of having to look everyone in their eyes and tell them that I failed the test again was torture, and the embarrassment that followed was even worse.
As soon as I got back home I went straight to my room and went to bed. I was devastated and prepared to turn my back and walk away from the entire thing. I came up with numerous reasons why pursuing my driver’s license was no longer a good idea and convinced myself that I could manage to live my life very comfortably without it.
Thanks to the encouragement of my family, I finally mustered up the strength to try a third time, and I succeeded! Since then I’ve turned out to be a pretty decent driver, if I may say so myself. But the point is that I would never have tasted success if I had allowed myself to be overcome by failure.
There is a very famous apostle in the bible who had such an experience. After a very dismal night of fishing and catching nothing with his colleagues, Simon Peter was instructed by a strange preacher named Jesus to launch out into the deep again for a catch.
And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.
(Luke 5:4-6 ESV)
Think about it: These guys had been fishing all night and caught absolutely nothing! This was their means of providing for themselves and their families. They had mouths to feed, bills to pay and their boats to maintain. And these were not motor boats! They had to row and exert great strength and energy to get out into the deep, then they had to row all the way back again. What a discouraging ordeal!
Now Jesus was asking them to quit washing their nets and start the tiring process all over again when they had just experienced a colossal failure the night before. What would you have done?
Peter’s response was to go back and try again because the Master had commanded him to. He had to suck up the pain, discouragement, disappointment and disillusionment of the night before in anticipation of something better on this new day.
There is a popular saying that the definition of insanity (or foolishness) is attempting to do the same thing while expecting different results. Or in order to get what you never got you have to do something you never did. But while there is a degree of truth to each of these statements, they are not entirely correct and cannot be indiscriminately applied to every situation. Sometimes the key lies in our consistency and persistence in doing the very same thing we have always been doing.
Peter and his colleagues didn’t attempt to do anything differently other than launch out in the daytime rather than at night which was the best time for fishing. They did everything they were accustomed to doing before as skilled, experienced fishermen. They didn’t rent or purchase a new boat, change their nets, hire a different crew, fish in different waters or pursue a different profession. Of course this doesn’t mean that change is not often necessary for success, because it often is.
We can often fail at something because we were doing it or approaching it wrongly. But there are other instances when the perceived failure has very little to do with what or how we were doing and is a consequence of timing. It doesn’t matter how good a farmer you are, you’re not going to reap the fruit the day after you plant seed. There is a process involved and you’re going to have to keep watering it and cultivating it faithfully and consistently until it is matured and ready to bring forth fruit. A caterpillar is not a failure because it cannot fly any more than a newborn baby is a failure because it cannot walk. It’s just not the right time yet, and they haven’t reached that state of their development.
The point I’m making here is that if there is something to improve on or change, which there usually is, go ahead and improve on it or change it. But if there isn’t, just keep on doing what you’ve always been doing and be faithful and consistent at it. You may have been unsuccessful or failed miserably up through yesterday, but today is a new day! The failures and disappointments of yesterday have no power to determine the course of your destiny today except to prepare you for it; because the failures of your past are usually the stepping stones of your preparation for your future.
When Peter launched out into the deep waters again and let down his nets like the Master had instructed, he took in the greatest catch of fish he had ever received, enough to fill both boats (his and his colleagues) to the point that they began to sink (Luke 5:7).
His success was much greater because he was willing to go back and try again. He was willing to put himself on the line, risk wasting his time, energy and resource, as well as the snickering jeers of the other fishermen in the area who knew that the best time for fishing was at night. He risked coming back again with no fish and being criticized by his peers. And after all that he would have still had to wash his nets again for the second time that day.
So what is your excuse? So what if you failed yesterday or the day before that? So what if you messed up really badly? So what if you tried and failed a dozen times before? It is said that Thomas Edison made 1000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. What kind of world would we be living in today if he had decided to give up or quit?
Every successful person who has ever accomplished anything of significance has experienced the pain of failure. So pick yourself up, encourage yourself (if you have no one there to encourage you) and go back and try again. I know it’s painful. I know it’s risky. I know it costs you something, but do it anyway!
Every one of us will fail at something, but that doesn’t make us a failure. You’re only a failure when you decide to quit. So don’t quit! Remember, you were born to win (see Created In Excellence And Destined To Win)!
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