Day 42: Failure, Pride, and the Luxury of Misery

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Pride cannot trust God. The posture of trust is too weak. Too dependent. It calls too much attention to the strength and wisdom of another. Trusting God is the heartbeat of humility, the opposite of pride.

John Piper

There are few greater luxuries than misery. Does that sound right? Indulging in the luxury of misery, or self-pity, is kind of a cultural norm. We all say things like “I just can’t get over it” or “I’m a total failure,” and we convince ourselves that we are a particularly hard case, removed from the loving hands of God. But that is a lie. Failure can serve a great purpose in the lives of those who take God at his word. Failure can serve as a reminder that God is in control, not us. It can bring you to your knees and put the unessential things of this world into a better perspective. Fearing failure, or what failure says about you, shows an arrogant belief that who you are is defined by what you do rather than what God has done for you. But there is freedom from the fear of failure when you put your hope and your worth in the one who is worthy.

Another thing about pride that makes failure so unbearable is our need to complain. Do you complain a lot? “I should have won,” “I’ll never get things right,” “I’m sick of being a loser.” While your complaining might be focused on your failure, it is really backhanded blame of God himself. Sure, it’s not what you’re thinking when you’re complaining, but complaining is really saying, “I deserve more than this” and “Where is God when I need him?” Really? Do you really deserve more than the eternal life that God gave you absolutely free? Do you really deserve more than the complete and total salvation that can never be taken away from you and assures that you will spend eternity with the most amazing being of all? Has your holiness really been so great that your life should be better than it is right now? Or has your sin been so deceitful that you deserve worse than any other human who has ever lived? Complaint is a sign of who you think you are and what you think about God and his gifts. Your failure as a human being can’t be blamed on God through your anger or complaint. All your actions have consequences, and the quickest way to get over the outcome of failure is to stop complaining and start praising God. Stop the complaint and break through to contentment!

Right on theme with this devotional series, a lack of thankfulness is another way that pride keeps you from getting over your failure. Everything good in your life comes from God, and being unthankful is making the dangerous assumption that you got whatever you have, success or failure, on your own. It’s so not true! God decides if it’s gonna rain or shine and if you are going to make it or break it. Ultimately he’s the giver of all that is good in your life. Proverbs 20:24 says, “The Lord is the one who directs a person’s steps. How then can anyone understand his own way?” Knowing this can help you with your failures in life because you can’t be depressed when you are thanking God. You can’t hate your life when you are thankful for your life. And failure will be seen not as the end but as the beginning when thanking God, even for the bad stuff in life, is your practice.

I hope none of this hurts too much, but if it does, don’t freak out, because not being able to take criticism is another form of pride (and I don’t want to be responsible for you getting your pride on). Criticism is one of two things: either it’s the truth and there is some area in your life where you’ve messed up, or it’s wrong and the critical person is making up stuff. Either way, it can hurt. And while hurt might be your first reaction, if you are smart you won’t let it linger. If the criticism is wrong, then you have to trust God to fight for you. Trust him to answer for you, to be powerful enough to speak to other people, even critical ones. And if the criticism is true, then thank God that he can use another human being to help get you back on track by pointing out something you might not have seen that might make failure less of a possibility in the future. Wisdom allows criticism to be used by the hand of God to shape you and polish you into the image of Christ.

In all these ways we can avoid getting puffed up like a proud rooster and avoid defensiveness when we fail. Humility is the path we are called to walk. Thank God right now that he sent, not his proud Son but, his humble Son for us to follow by example!

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