Old vs. New
With the New Year now in swing for us all, how’s it going? I imagine for most it’s hard to tell given the snowy weather, cold temps and of course the flu and other winter illnesses. Maybe your NEW YEAR looks a lot like your OLD YEAR. When I thought about this thought of OLD vs. NEW the following came to my mind.
We hold onto the pain of past failures until they become woven into our hearts and minds. But that is not what Jesus has for us. In order to heal from the pain of our past failures and overcome the fear of future failures, we must practice our ABCs: acknowledge our feelings, ban the B’s, and choose to believe Jesus.
Acknowledge our feelings
Maybe it’s a lost business, a failed marriage, a friendship that ended over an argument — whatever it is, it’s important to acknowledge the feelings you have about the failure.
Remember, the enemy doesn’t want us in touch with our emotions, because you can’t heal from what you don’t feel.
Ban the B’s
When we are battling the fear of failure, it is so easy to fall back on these coping mechanisms.
We busy ourselves trying to make sure our perfect world stays that way. (Because, after all, any sort of failure from one of our world is a direct reflection on our ability to live life correctly, right?)
- We binge eat our way through a package of Double Stuff Oreos rather than face certain failure in another relationship. (It won’t work out. It never does.)
- We blame anyone and everyone for why we failed the last time and let that be the reason we don’t risk failure again. (If those people weren’t so dumb they could have seen that I was the best choice for the Committee.)
- We bury our feelings altogether because out of sight, out of mind. (I never really wanted that job anyway. Whatever.)
- We brood, constantly replaying our failure until it becomes a deeply rooted fear. (What was I thinking? Why did I say that? If I had only made a different choice that day.)
If you want to be free from the fear of failure and the pain of the past, you have to ban the Bad B’s.
Choose to believe Jesus
Brennan Manning, in his book Ruthless Trust, says this:
“Wallowing in shame, remorse, self-hatred, and guilt over real or imagined failings in our past lives betrays a distrust in the love of God. It shows that we have not accepted the acceptance of Jesus Christ and thus have rejected the total sufficiency of his redeeming work. Preoccupation with our past sins, present weaknesses, and character defects gets our emotions churning in self-destructive ways, closes us within the mighty citadel of self, and preempts the presence of a compassionate God.”1
This is a good preaching thought! When we truly accept the total redeeming work of Jesus, we have no choice but to decide we are going to stop beating ourselves up.
Because we will all fail. This is a reality of living on this planet. We all fail and will continue to fail. What matters is how we respond to our failure. We can choose to believe that Jesus can rewrite our stories and use our failure for his good (and ours), or we can become stuck in a cycle of failure.
A perfect example of this is the woman at the well.
The woman at the well was a mess. She was a failure in the eyes of her community. She was stuck in a cycle of failure, failing over and over again, marrying one man and then another and then another and then another and then another, until she gave up on marriage entirely and just lived with a guy. Her fear of failure eventually became the assumption of failure until it became actual failure.
The woman at the well feared that her life was colored by such failure that she could never rise above it.
But then Jesus showed her differently.
He knew her stories and her pain and offered her life and a future.
He addressed her failed relationships, but what He really wanted to do was show her that she had a bigger purpose in the kingdom despite her failure. And she believed Him. So she left her water jar behind, went back to her town, and said to the people,
Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah? — John 4:29
And what happened next? Did they blow her off? Did they say, “What do you know? You’re not even married!” No. They all came out to meet Jesus.
Jesus broke the cycle of failure by speaking truth to her. Just like He is breaking the cycle by speaking truth to us today.
“Yes, you had five husbands and are living with someone outside of marriage. So what? It doesn’t have to be your story. How would you like to lead people to eternal life?”
In the same way, He speaks truth over you and me today.
“Yes, you got fired from that job. So what? It doesn’t have to be your story.”
- “Yes, your marriage fell apart. So what? It doesn’t have to be your story.”
- “Yes, your child rebelled. So what? It doesn’t have to be your story.” You can choose to believe the truth that Jesus has a purpose for you beyond your failure and allow Him to rewrite your story.
Our futures are already claimed by God; we don’t have to stay stuck in a cycle of fear and failure. Failure doesn’t have to be your story. He is still writing your story.