What do you do when you feel like you’ve failed?
When you do the math, and it doesn’t add up?
When you have tried your hardest, put it all on the line, done what you know to do, and it still wasn’t enough?
When you are backed into a corner you did everything to avoid and can’t see any good options?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer of how to respond. But I’ve been there often enough to see a pattern of response that has helped me – eventually – get back on my feet. Here’s what I do.
First, I cry. Not pretty little tears, but big sobs, the kind that wreck through my body taking everything I have. I would love to be one of those people who goes straight into unshakeable faith, who tells the devil off with power, and stands tall and righteous. I’m not. I usually find myself crying on the floor first before I can stand back up.
This stage is important. It’s the place I grieve, the place I cry over the very real pain of living in a fallen world with fallen people in fallen systems. But it’s also where I encounter the God who is there with me, crying on the floor. In the moment before the Red Sea parts. When there is nothing but an army on one side and a wall of water on the other. God is there regardless. God is present. God is good. Somehow, there is beauty in that broken place.
Then, the hard questions form, but the answers bring perspective. I wonder – why did I take all this on? Why did I step out into something that will only work if God shows up? Why did I risk starvation in the wilderness, when I could have had a full belly back in the slave camp?
At this point, my response usually alternates between defeat – “let’s just lay down and let the army take us” – and frenetic activity – “maybe if I just swim hard enough.” Neither option is a healthy way to respond when you feel like you’ve failed because both assume a God who won’t intervene, leaving all the responsibility for the situation on my shoulders.
There is only one answer:
Trust and rest.
Ready to fight AND ready to walk on dry ground.
Ready for a miracle.
Because God is there.
If the sea parts, God is there. If I die fighting, God is there.
Either way, regardless of the outcome, I will choose to walk in the knowledge that God is good.
When the Red Sea saw you, O God, its waters looked and trembled! The sea quaked to its very depths. The clouds poured down their rain; the thunder rolled and crackled in the sky. Your arrows of lightning flashed. Your thunder roared from the whirlwind; the lightning lit up the world! The earth trembled and shook. Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters – a pathway no one knew was there! You led your people along that road like a flock of sheep, with Moses and Aaron as their shepards.
Psalm 77:16 – 20