Jesus told us in Matthew 28:19: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” I personally would have ended that passage with “but guard your heart because it’s hard work and it is likely that there will be many times when you fail.”
Failure is a huge part of doing God’s work. Failure is a guaranteed part of leadership. We are human. Human beings fail all the time. In fact sometimes we have what are often referred to as “epic fails.” I’ve had a few myself.
A few years back my children’s school was having financial difficulties and was looking to close. They came to me to see if I wanted to take it over. I had no background other than having my 4 children all go through the school and I didn’t have a bunch of money. But I loved the school and the people and I have what I affectionately refer to as a “superman complex.” Some might call it a “Jesus complex” but I would never put myself in the same category as my ACTUAL savior. I feel that given enough faith, hard work and love I can save anything. ANYTHING. I poured my heart, my soul, my finances, my faith and all of my energy into this school. I was going to restore it to its former glory despite the economy. To a certain extent I did. To a certain extent I was successful and I loved it. But in the end, I failed. The school closed and I walked away in shame. It was an epic fail.
I examined everything. What did I do wrong? What could I have done different? Did I hear the Lord when he allowed me to go forward with it? Did I sin? Was it a sin from my past? Was God mad at me? Was I just not cut out for his service? Did I fail God? These questions tore at my soul. They ripped me apart. I anguished and anguished over these questions for 2 years until I finally broke free of them.
The ugly truth about leadership is that sometimes you fail. It may be a ministry that doesn’t work out. It may be a church that closes. It may be a business that fails. It may be a job you lose. It may be a friendship you lose. It may simply be God saying no to something that seems like his will. The problem is, we often don’t teach leaders how to deal with failure. Even more importantly, we don’t teach women how to deal with failure.
When women fail, we personalize it and often go straight to shame. That’s not what God wants for us. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Psalm 73:26 says “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” There are many more verses referring to failure and shame. The point is that it is not a surprise to our heavenly father that we are going to fail. He created us. Failure is just part of us. It’s how we deal with the failure that makes the difference.
For me and my failure I personalized it immediately. In fact I made it all about me instead of asking God what He was trying to show me. I was angry with God. I was frustrated. My conscious mind knew that God does “all things for the good of those who love Him” but my heart was broken. In the midst, even when it was so hard I praised God anyway. I continued to praise Him until my heart came in line with my head. I continued to ask Him what His purpose was in all of it. To date, He has remained silent on that subject. But in all things I will trust His goodness and His perfect will.
After that, God took me out of ministry for a while. He put me in a spiritual timeout so to speak. He has been showing me that in my “superman complex” I often pour out before I’ve filled up and by fill up I don’t just mean massages and pedicures (although those have their place). He means filling up on His word and He means filling up on Him. I have learned to just being in His presence. I have learned that “for such a time as this” it is ok to just be. So often I feel like my worth is tied up in what I do. God is showing me that if I never do another thing, I am still loved and adored by my Father. He’s also showing me that he will let me out of “timeout” one of these days when I am ready and when it’s His will, but he’s also showing me that I may fail again and I need to prepare my heart for that.
My advice to leaders that have failed is this: Immediately begin to praise Him and keep doing it until your heart and your mind line up. Take the focus off yourself and your circumstances and focus on Him and His perfect will. Give Him your broken heart. He is the great physician. He will restore to you your peace and He will show you His will for your life. Most importantly He will use your failure for good. Trust that and begin to lead knowing in God’s eyes your failures are mere detours. Don’t get lost in your failure. Get lost in His presence.