How to Persevere in the Wake of Failure
I’m a failure. I’ve let people down. I’ve tried my best, and it wasn’t good enough.
There have been a number of pastoral care situations lately where it just hasn’t gone well. Situations where people have come to me with needs, and have left disappointed. There are people who I tried to care for, tried to support, only to find out that they didn’t feel loved, didn’t feel supported, didn’t feel cared for, and it’s my fault.
I love being a Pastoral Care Pastor. I love spending my days helping people, praying with them and lending a listening ear. So when it doesn’t work out, when I fail, it really hurts. I feel a profound disappointment and regret that weighs heavy, sucks my energy and steels my joy.
That’s how I feel today. Spent. Totally depleted. Inadequate.
I didn’t go into ministry to disappoint people, but the reality is that I will always let some people down. I don’t go to work each day intending to hurt anyone, but I am not perfect, I make mistakes, and people do get hurt. I can try as hard as I can to provide everything that people need, but, as hard as I try, I don’t have the capacity to deliver. I will always let people down, no matter how hard I try.
You don’t need to be in ministry to feel this way. It happens to anyone who cares about others! Every parent, child, sibling or friend has felt the grief of personal failure as we try to care for those we love. It’s impossible to be a good parent without disappointing our kids, often. And, as much as we try, it just isn’t possible to always live up to the expectations of others in our lives. There will always be times when we either let people down, or the expectations are unrealistic and unachievable.
Living in this reality can be very discouraging. I know that if I stay in this place too long, it makes me want to give up. Why bother? Why continue? Why should I even try? This is where God meets me today...
God is Enough
I may not be able to be all that people need, but God can. Yes, God uses me to help care for people, He has called me to serve, but he knows my inadequacy. God never intended for me to meet everyone’s needs. That’s his job, not mine. I need to trust God to be who he promises to be in the lives of hurting people around me. Rather than trying to be a hero, I need to get out of the way, and point people to Jesus.
I Serve God
I need to learn not to take things personally. When people express their anger, it’s not all about me. In fact, sometimes it’s not about me at all. The battle is the Lord’s; I am just a soldier in the army. I need to learn how to let go of my need to please people to feel appreciated, and look to Jesus, the head of the Church, the commander of the army. My identity, purpose, and value is found in him, not in the opinions or approval of others.
God isn’t finished with me yet
Today is not the end. I have more to learn, and I will keep growing. I will always make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean that I should stop trying to get better. I need to take the time to carefully think through the criticism that has been spoken against me. I will process the feedback with trusted colleagues and friends, and I will learn. I will learn, and grow, and try to be better next time.
Right now I feel a little battered and bruised by it all. I need to step away for a moment and replenish my internal resources. Today I will take some time to stop working, stop striving, stop pleasing people, and realign my priorities. I will read God’s word and soak in truth. I will rest. I will spend unhurried time with people I love. I will lift my anxiety to Jesus once again, ask for forgiveness, and then have another go.
Do you have a favourite verse that encourages you in times of disappointment? Please share!