Why Does God Allow His People to Fail?
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Who among us has not experienced failure? What’s even worse is when we believe we are that failure. Yet we know that is not what God says about us. So how do we approach failure in a godly way?
Failure requires grace.
Without the grace that God provides, we are left with only our own sufficiency to recover. Yet God tells us that His grace is our sufficiency. A more accurate translation would read something like “I am all the grace you need.” Grace comes in His presence, because He is grace.
Failure drives us to God.
It reminds us we need a Savior. We need not only to be saved from our sins, but to be saved through our failures. When we realize our total helplessness to find strength in ourselves, we fall back into our dependency on God. Only then we are positioned to succeed.
What we see as failure may actually be great success.
When Jesus was nailed to the cross, His disciples forgot that He had already told them it would happen. They didn’t remember that He said He would rise again. They thought He had come to set up His kingdom on earth, so His death looked to them like a failure. But it was the greatest success the world has ever seen! Only after the third day did they remember what He had told them and understand the truth about the Kingdom of God, and ultimately about themselves.
God may allow you to fail.
God may allow you to fail so that you remain humble (See James 4:6). He gave Paul a “thorn in the flesh” because of his great revelations. Without this constant reminder, there would have been tremendous temptation toward pride. Paul’s “failure” to overcome this tribulation meant that God got all the glory, and Paul remained humble. And when you are humble, God will lift you up (Matthew 23:12). If God had answered Paul’s prayer to remove the thorn, it would also have removed God’s grace in the situation.
Failure sometimes, but not always, involves sin.
We can fail because we are physically weak, not knowledgeable enough, or for other reasons beyond our control (like outside interference). But even in those things, sin is a possibility. Did we neglect our bodies and now we are ill? Did we refuse to pay attention to our teachers? Did we put ourselves in a place we should not have been? Sometimes we have no one to blame but us for our failures.
It is then that the Gospel comes into play. He forgives our sins, even those in our failures. And God promises to lift us out of failure and set our feet firmly on the rock. Psalm 40:2 reminds us “He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.”
Failure often does involve sin. Even when we don’t recognize the sin in our failures, it’s there. David prayed, “But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12). He knew that he sinned even when he wasn’t aware of it. He also realized that even if he prayed all day, there would still be sin left unprayed for. God’s grace is sufficient to cover even the unknown sin in our lives.
But don’t automatically equate weakness with sin. Weakness is the knowledge that God has all the power. Weakness means that we endure persecution, affliction and perplexity so that Christ may be revealed in us.
Be instant in continued prayer.
When failure comes (and it will), what is the answer? Be instant in continuing prayer. Do not cease to pray, for it is in prayer that we recognize God’s great power and acknowledge His perfect plan.
Be joyful in every circumstance, as it produces perseverance and patience (Romans 5:3). Godliness is developed in us through the trials we face, especially when we seem to have failed. It is then God’s grace is worked out in us!
Be content in limitations.
“Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). We are not all great athletes, scholars, or statesmen. Most of us have more humble gifts. Being content with whom God created us to be brings about reliance on God for His grace, and ultimately that He would be glorified in us. Our weakness allows God’s strength to be the focus of attention, and it brings Him the glory that pride would keep for itself.
We should pray that our failures advance God’s kingdom and leave us content in Christ. Were we to overcome all our weaknesses in our own strength, how then would Christ get the glory?