Risking Failure to Become All God Created You to Be

 

Eyes on God with purple background

How many opportunities have you avoided, how many dreams have you never pursued, for fear of failure? Or perhaps you embraced that new challenge but then spent countless sleepless nights fretting over what might happen or what others might think when you didn’t measure up or succeed?

The summer before our daughter’s senior year in high school, she had some big decisions to make, decisions that could literally cost her tens of thousands of dollars. She’d been working tirelessly for an academic scholarship, and through sheer grit stood a good chance of attaining it. She knew she could take an easy course load and preserve her GPA, perhaps even improve it. Or she could challenge herself by taking advanced placement math and science classes.

Back then, none of us realized she had an undiagnosed learning disability. But we did know how time consuming and difficult school was for her. She often took twice as long as other students to complete homework and taught herself, through online videos, what other students managed to learn through lecture.

So, basically, we all knew, by taking these classes, she could easily fail. Worse, her failure would cost her a regency—a full academic scholarship for all four years. To a seventeen-year-old on a reasonable allowance, that felt like a lot of money. Uncertain of what to do, she came to my husband and I for advice. To her frustration, I’m sure, we didn’t give her any, except to encourage her not to base her decision on fear. Though we understood the consequences, should she fail, and how devastated she’d be, we also knew she’d suffer more in the long run by becoming risk adverse. We didn’t want her to go through life tiptoeing forward, looking for that next drop off or dead end. We wanted her to proceed with confidence, viewing every setback and roadblock as a learning opportunity.

With a lot of tears, an unseen amount of hours, and a great deal of stress, she passed all of her classes and received that long-coveted regency. But this accomplishment, initially celebrated, soon enslaved her. Once in college, she quickly discovered all the adaptations that had carried her through high school no longer worked. Despite how hard she was trying, despite all the sleepless nights she spent studying, her grades were slipping fast.

As a result, she tried harder, acquiring shingles twice in her first two years away from home.

One day, watching her emotional angst, I looked her in the eye and said, “I kind of hope you’ll fail. I want you to see that failing isn’t the end of the world.”

I reminded her of Ephesians 2:10, which says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

She was, and is, God’s “handiwork,” His masterpiece, being molded by her loving Creator, who was shaping her in Christ toquote pulled from post with purple background do precisely what He created her to.

In other words, God had a plan for her, one He set into motion before she took her first breath. A plan He assigned knowing every challenge, set back, and momentary “failure” she’d face. She didn’t have to have it all figured out or tackle every difficulty perfectly. She wouldn’t and couldn’t. Rather, she needed to keep her eye on Christ and her heart surrendered and obedient to Him. I knew, so long as she did that, He’d take care of everything else. He would complete all that concerned her. (Ps. 138:8)

I wanted her to experience the freedom that comes when we learn to view failure differently. I knew she’d still work hard. That’s in her nature. But I wanted her to do so with joy and peace rather than stress, fear, and striving.

She did lose that scholarship, and though at first this crushed her, she recovered. She bounced back. In fact, she’ll graduate this spring with a degree that challenged her every brain cell and last ounce of grit. A degree some told her she’d never earn. And for four years, especially on those days when her learning disability seemed insurmountable, part of her wondered if all those naysayers were right.

I imagine there were many times she debated giving up, doing something easier, something safer, something with little to no risk.

She held tight to God’s promise in Ephesians 2:10 knowing He had a plan for her, was working out that plan, and would perfect all that concerned her.  

Today, less than two months before her graduation, I’m wondering …

What if she’d taken those easier classes in high school? What other “easy” and “safe” decisions would they have led to?

What if, when others tossed doubt on her resolve, she’d quit, midway through college, and opted for her second or third career choice?

But perhaps most importantly, what if the resolve and courage built with every difficult step prepared her for all the uncertainties ahead and all God has in store for her?

What if embracing risk led to her greatest growth and strength?

What if our saying yes and embracing risk does the same for us?

Let’s talk about this! Is God asking you to embrace risk for Him? If so, what? And how can you step into that today?

When has risk initiated personal growth?

If you’re following the Faith Over Fear challenge, congrats! We’ve made it to week eight! Woohoo! (Please note, I noticed I uploaded the wrong questions and notes to the wrong week. You can find all the shownotes and questions, with Bible references, HERE.)

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, join her private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group, Logo image for Faith Over Fearlisten to the first two episodes of her Faith Over Fear podcast HERE and find her free Bible reading plan HERE.

Additional resources:

Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God When Sparkly, Safe Faith is No Longer Enough by

Letting Go of the Need to Control – Guest Post

quote on surrender with flower in background

Lately, our world seems completely out of control. When I focus on all the chaos, I worry about our economy, about loved ones, about my daughter and son-in-laws college classes … in short, about a lot. But then I remember truth, and that truth grounds mean. If you find your thoughts pinging in a thousand different directions and your heart longing for control, I hope my friend Melanie Redd’s post below encourages you.

Letting Go of the Need to Control

Melanie Redd

It’s true… I really hate being the passenger in any car.

When my husband and I first got married, he was usually the one to drive. This was a change for me. I’d not ridden as a passenger as much since I was a child.

This was when I realized that I liked being the driver more than the passenger.

Later, as our children began to learn to drive, I really struggled with not being in the driver’s seat. (If only the passenger seat had a steering wheel and brakes!)

In the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to ride along with several friends and family members as they’ve driven us places. Once again, I’ve struggled with allowing others to drive while I helplessly watch from the back seat or the passenger side.

What is my hang-up with being a passenger?

Why does this bother me so much?

Because I like being in control of the car. Truly, I want to be the one to steer the car, pump the brakes, determine the speed, and control the trajectory of the vehicle.

And, if I’m being honest, my desire to be in control goes well beyond driving. I like to be in control of everything in my life. Maybe you do as well?

The older I get, however, the more I realize that absolute control is impossible. In fact, if we try to carefully control every single detail of our lives, we can go quite crazy!

So, what can we do with control issues?

How can we more reasonably and wisely live with things we cannot control?

I’ve found great comfort in the words of a prayer that hung on the wall in my grandmother’s house – beautifully needlepointed.

It’s called the Serenity Prayer, and it reads like this:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Yes. This prayer is used in AA meetings around the world.

But it applies to all of us. Indeed, all of God’s children like to feel like they have some control in their lives.

To assist us, let’s break down this prayer into three sections:

First, we can ask God to give us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change.

Serenity is an old-fashioned work for peace, calm, tranquility.

It’s a sense of well-being about our lives. To be serene is to keep your composure when things feel out of control.

What are some of the things you and I cannot change?

  • Other people
  • Our bosses
  • The weather
  • Our pastor
  • Our children
  • Our spouse
  • The past
  • The future
  • So many more things

Once we realize that only God can truly change hearts, we will quit trying to fix, change, and coerce the people and circumstances around us.

There is sweet freedom in letting go of the need to control everyone and everything! Sweet freedom.

One of my favorite authors, Amy Carmichael, explained it this way. “In acceptance, lies peace.”

Second, we ask God to give us the courage to change the things we can.

Courage is tenacity. It’s that quality of spirit that pushes us forward in bravery and hope. To be courageous is to audacious!Joshua 1:9

Joshua 1:9 encourages us, Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (ESV)

And, courage is a choice. It is a willful action on our part.

What can we change and control in our own lives?

  • Our clothing choices
  • What we eat and drink
  • What we do
  • How we live
  • How we respond to others
  • How we spend our time
  • Whether or not we exercise
  • How we relate to God
  • What we say
  • How we think
  • And, so much more

Absolutely, there is so much we can choose to control in our lives.

But we must choose. And, often we must choose with great courage.

Why not ask God to give you the courage to make some life-altering and life-sweetening changes this week?

Third, we can ask God to give us the wisdom to know what we can and cannot change.

This final part of this prayer may be the most difficult. Honestly, it may be at the heart of our control.

Indeed, this may be the hardest part of this whole process.

And, this is where prayer comes in. I think of the words of James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (ESV)

When we don’t know how to proceed in a situation or a relationship, we can pray and ask God to give us wisdom, insight and discernment.

For years I dealt with a close female relative who I wanted to please. I worked like crazy to make her happy. Through gifts, words, phone calls, and actions, I tried to make this person love and accept me.

Finally, one day after praying over this relationship, a very wise friend helped me to realize that I was never going to make this relative change. No matter what I did, she was not capable of becoming the kind of person I hoped she could become.

Accepting that my relative would never change brought such freedom to my life.

Now, I expect nothing from this person. And, I’m able to just love her without any demands. This particular choice has changed everything in our relationship – especially me!

I believe all of us can find freedom in accepting what we cannot change. Truly, in laying down our expectations and demands, we can find great peace.

It’s not an easy thing to do, but it can be incredibly liberating!

What about you?

Are you the kind of person who also likes to be in the driver’s seat?

Do you struggle with control?

How does the Serenity Prayer help you? Which part is most challenging for you to practice?How have you found peace in surrendering control?

***

Let’s talk about this! Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because can all learn from and encourage one another. If you’re struggling with finding peace and standing on faith in our seemingly out-of-control world, listen to my latest podcast episode Fear of Losing Control: Courage to Surrender with International Speaker Carol Kent. Find it HERE.

Get to Know Melanie

Melanie's headshotMelanie is a Christian blogger, Motivational Speaker and Author. She’s written four books and has a brand-new book – Live in Light: 5-Minute Devotions for Teen Girls.

She’s married to Randy for the past 29 years and serving alongside him in ministry.

Additionally, she’s mom to two awesome young adults.

God’s grace never ceases to amaze her.

You can find out more about Melanie & her ministry at www.melanieredd.com.

You can connect with Melanie here:

Facebook

Instagram

Pinterest

Twitter

Aditonal Resources:

Jennifer’s Faith Over Fear Bible Reading Plan

Changing the World Through Surrender

To Soar We Must First Let Go

Surrendering Our Fix-It Plans to Experience Christ

Fear No More–Finding Eternal Significance in Christ

In my young adult years, I wasted so much energy, so much peace, trying to prove my worth. Driven by a hidden fear of insignificance, I chased after one goal after another and defined myself by external and subjective standards. As a result, I developed a rather shallow sense of purpose and believed the lie that I was what I did. Therefore, my heart inevitably shifted toward pride or insecurity, and it often bounced between the two numerous times each day.

But then, sickness temporarily robbed me of my ability to perform all those tasks I thought defined me. Roles shifted rapidly in our home as the caretaker became the one receiving care. There were days I felt worthless, like a burden and a drain. I hadn’t learned to live anchored in my Christ-centered identity.

It took temporarily losing myself—who I thought I was—to recognize and rest in where my true significance lay. One afternoon, battling pain and fatigue, I asked God, in frustration, why He wouldn’t heal me. After all, couldn’t I serve Him better well—strong and energetic? Just imagine all the studies I could lead, the women I could mentor, the outreach events I could help plan!

But as I sat in His presence, He spoke heart-soothing truth to my soul. He hadn’t created me to launch ministries, raise perfect children, or even to embark on oversea missions. Now, He may indeed call me to do those things, but that wasn’t why He gave me breath. Instead, He formed me by His loving hands for His pleasure and His glory. That’s where my true significance lies—in Him—and I can live that out, no matter my circumstances or limitations.

When I was sick, that meant sitting in His presence every day and connecting, Father to daughter, and knowing in those moments, that was enough. I didn’t have to perform, impress, strive, or to stress. I simply needed to live loved and to love God and others in return.

As a mom, I get this. I’m crazy proud of my daughter, of all she’s accomplished and overcome, but her external achievements aren’t what bring me greatest pleasure. Rather, my heart fills with joy whenever she turns off her phone, sets her agenda aside, and simply sits with me. Those are the moments I cherish most. She doesn’t have to impress me or present a polished image of herself. She doesn’t have to check off numerous sacrificial tasks to enter my presence. She simply needs to come, and when she does, I welcome her near. In fact, were she to forfeit time with me to achieve what she hoped might impress me, I’d be saddened.

I suspect God would say the same. Though He longs for our obedience, of course, and for us to live our lives surrendered to Him, He desires us most of all. He paid a high price—death on the cross—to remove the sin that separated us and to draw us close. Ephesians The price Christ paid to draw us near1:5 says, “God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure” (NLT, emphasis mine).

Can anything be more glorious, more fulfilling, more significant than that—to bring all mighty God, Creator and Ruler of all, pleasure? According to Scripture, that’s precisely what we did the moment we received Christ’s grace.

During my time of illness, as I daily rested in Him, simply connected with Him, I sensed and echoed His pleasure. I received pleasure not from anything God had done or might do but simply through my union with Him.

During those soul-to-Christ encounters, God reminded me of my second yet equally important purpose—to make Him known. Though I’d always assumed I did that best through some grand act of service, perhaps leading Vacation Bible School or speaking from a stage, He helped me see how my weakness, my steady leaning on Him, could provide the purest proclamation of the gospel.

God wasn’t asking me to be a super-hero Christian displaying super-human strength. Rather, He was asking me to demonstrate a super-hero, ever-present, ever-loving God able to carry me through every struggle and triumph. That’s what it means to bring Him glory. The gospel is most clearly revealed through our dependence on Him, and sometimes that dependence shows clearest when we feel as if our significance, at least as our culture might define it, has slipped away.

My identity is in Christ—I am loved by and belong to Him, and that will never change.

My significance is in Christ—He defines my worth and assigns my purpose.

What’s more, my purpose is to know Christ and make Him known, and I can do that when well, when sick, when energetic, and when tired.

Let’s talk about this! In what ways have you allowed your identity, value, and purpose to become tangled? Have you based your significance on the roles you fill or tasks you perform? How might God be calling you to go deeper—in Him? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, join her private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group, listen to her Faith Over Fear podcast HERE

Additional resources:

What Makes My Life Significant by John Piper

Finding Significance in Christ by Abiding Above Ministries

Who Am I? A New Way to Define Identity by Melissa Crutchfield

Visit Jennifer’s Faith Over Fear page for more faith-building resources

 

Conquering Our Fear of Weakness

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I don’t like to appear weak or needy. In fact, I will go to great lengths to avoid this and to portray an image of strength, even in the face of weakness. I suspect some of this comes from my slightly stubborn and determined personality. But honestly, most of my insecurities stem from fear and pride. I’m afraid my weaknesses might somehow disqualify me from some future opportunity and might cause others to lose their respect for me.

I didn’t realize I had a fear of weakness until I became physically weak. Some of you know my story—how I grew sick in 2011. And while I’m so much better than I was, I’m still far from the athlete I once considered myself to be. Sometimes, oftentimes, actually, I’m afraid to admit why: I have fibromyalgia, though I hide my symptoms well. I’ve learned to smile through the pain and shake off the fatigue—until I come home. There, nestled in the security of my husband’s love, my true and often hurting self emerges.

Like I indicated, my insecurities stem from a fear of missing out. Of being labeled by my weaknesses rather than my strengths. Of being discounted before I even try. Of having to fight not just my inherent limitations, but other people’s false perceptions as well. In short, my fears stem from a failure to rest in God’s sovereignty and grace.

One hot, summer afternoon, I sensed God’s nudge to share how He’d met me in my struggle—how He became my strength during a time of weakness. But out of fear and shame, I remained quiet. As I explained to God why—all I feared might happen should I step out from behind my carefully erected veneer, He reminded me of a faith-bolstering truth.

He’d called me. Long before I took my first breath, committed my first sin, ran my first triathlon, or acquired my first illness. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (NIV). This means God has a plan for me and my life, a wonderful, eternally significant plan. That plan absolutely must include my current condition, because He set His plan into motion before my diagnosis. What’s more, Psalm 139:16 tells me that every day of my life was recorded in God’s book before a single one came to pass.

But the original Hebrew goes deeper. It says, in essence, “All the days fashioned, or molded into form, for me …” Combined with Ephesians 2:10, this creates an image of a patient, loving, intentional craftsman molding a pliable, not yet perfected lump of clay into His masterpiece. The pushing, squeezing, and molding hurts, absolutely. But never without purpose. Never without hope.

My condition cannot limit the call God’s placed on my life. It may, in fact, reveal that call more clearly. Though I don’t believe He gave me fibromyalgia, He can and will use it to reveal the gospel. As I lean on Him, the only One able to bringQuote from post strength from my weakness, I proclaim a God bigger than everything hard, broken, tarnished, and incomplete in this world. And as I long for restoration and health, He lifts my heart to thoughts of eternity where He’ll one day make all things right. Where there will be no more pain, no more sickness, no weakness or sin. Nothing but light and life and love as we, God’s children, stand in the presence of the One who is light and love.

So in the meantime, I serve, honestly, faithfully, and authentically, focusing not on how others perceive me but rather how I reveal my God.

Fear of weakness, at its root, is an idolatry problem. It stems from a failure to lose myself completely in my Lord, the One who gave Himself completely for me. I conquer this fear not through fighting for strength but rather choosing surrender. Choosing to lose myself in a battle greater than me.

Let’s talk about this! When has your weakness caused you to rely on God and therefore turned to a strength? When has your strength resulted in self-reliance and therefore turned to a weakness?

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, join her private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group, Logo image for Faith Over Fearlisten to the first two episodes of her Faith Over Fear podcast HERE and find her free Bible reading plan HERE.

Additional resources:

Moving Past Self-Sufficiency, video presentation from Wholly Loved’s Becoming His Princess Bible study.

Don’t Fear Weakness by Bear Grylls

Weakness is an Invitation From God by Sarah Walton

Faith Over Fear is Now Live

Faith Over Fear podcast episode logoWe’ve been waiting, or at least, I’ve been waiting. Salem Web Communications has released the first two episodes of my Faith Over Fear podcast. God showed up so much in my life as I worked through this podcast series, and He’s created a beautiful movement of freedom. As I researched each topic, He sparked such a passion in my heart to share all He was teaching me. As I spoke with guests and contemplated my own story, I remembered how it felt to live enslaved. But more than that, I celebrated all the ways God’s brought me increased freedom, and I wanted to share potential freedom-gaining steps with others.

So, I launched a social media campaign and private Facebook group, and my heart has been so full. I’m seeing God work, seeing His children support and encourage one another, seeing veils drop, and seeing people take huge leaps toward freedom.

We were not created to live in fear. God’s got way too much for us to do. We’re called, commissioned and empowered to change lives. Fear hinders our calling, but it doesn’t have to, because in Christ we have everything we need to live victoriously.

Take a listen to my first episode, maybe gather some friends around you to talk to through the discussion questions, and if you believe others would find the truths discussed helpful, I’d be so very blessed if you’d share the episode with those in your circle.

Listen HERE.

Join the private FB group HERE.

 

Resting in God Our Rock When Our Enemies Attack

quote on staying close to God

In 2006, my husband stepped into an ugly power struggle that nearly cost him his job. In the span of a year, he’d changed employment three times, landing, precariously, at the company he’d started with, but in a different location and with a pay cut and demotion. The organization he initially quit, with zero notice. Therefore, though my husband’s former boss, through God’s grace, invited him back, Steve’s position felt shaky at best. Like he was one mistake away from unemployment.

Adding to this mess of uncertainty was the fact that my husband was coming in both equal and under the current shop director. A man accustomed to little oversight, and whom we soon discovered was behaving unethically in countless ways. He was allowing employees to “steal” time, was misreporting injuries, misusing his company credit card in outlandish and grievous ways, and gave those with influence special privileges. Worse, he pressured my husband to comply with his dishonest tactics.

Though anxious, my husband refused, knowing, however his boss responded, whatever occurred, his allegiance was to Christ and Christ alone. He made the right hard choice. The result: the truth eventually came out, his boss and numerous managers were fired and walked off the property, while my husband was promoted.

We rejoiced at God’s goodness and grace, celebrating the fact that righteousness and justice had prevailed. Soon, however, our praise turned to desperate prayers for God’s intervention and protection as evil, power-hungry men used to getting their way slandered and attacked him.

One man in particular, the union rep, determined to make it his mission to get my husband fired. Every day, he bombarded my husband with accusations and demands in an attempt to wear him down. When this didn’t work, he turned to the Chief Executive Officer telling him how “terrible” my husband was. Once sent, he printed and prominently displayed the letter he wrote, in which he’d twisted everything my husband had or hadn’t done in an effort to make him look bad.

While walking down the hallway one morning, my husband happened to see this letter, tacked on one of the union bulletin boards. He felt attacked and deeply fatigued. Not only had his continual decision to make the right hard choice not produced positive results, but it’d landed him in a mess. One that felt never-ending and in fact appeared to be gaining momentum.

With every interaction, my anxiety climbed. What if this man succeeded and Steve’s company let him go? Where would he work? How would we pay our bills? Our mortgage? What if we lost our home?

Initially, our world felt out of control. Our security only as steady, as sure, as my husband’s next paycheck. But then we remembered our sure foundation, the immovable rock upon which we stood.

Psalm 18:1-2 says, “I love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliver.”quote pulled from post

This was written by ancient Israel’s second king, a mighty warrior who’d once defeated a tyrannical giant without displaying a hint of fear. But this warrior found strength not in himself and his military prowess, but instead in His sovereign, all-powerful, ever-present God. He recognized how insufficient, how vulnerable, he was apart from God, but more so, how protected, untouchable, he was when raised upon the crags of God’s love.

Towering rocks or bluffs dotted the landscape of ancient Palestine, providing places of refuge, of protection, for all who scampered upon them. These elevated geological edifices were difficult to reach and offered shelter within their caverns. Therefore, they became places of safety in times of danger.

Fortresses offered similar protection. The people built heavily-fortified cities high upon a cliff, where they could see enemies approach for miles. Then, they erected stone towers at the highest point in the city.

Can you sense the layers of protection revealed in the Psalm 18 passage? In Christ, we stand high upon an immovable rock of power and grace, further hidden within the clefts of His love. His strength is greater than anything or anyone that comes against us. We are triply protected within His steadfast embrace. He is our sure and constant deliverer, the rock beneath our feet, and the fortress surrounding us.

In 2006, as attacks continued to barrage my husband and our family, we hid ourselves deeply in God. When anxiety arose, we reminded ourselves of where our true security lay, and all we knew to be true about God. He was faithful, loving and attentive—unconquerable. He was our ever-present provider, the only One with the power to sustain us.

That year, He proved Himself to be all those things and more. I’m confident He’ll do the same for you. Whatever you’re facing, whatever is coming against you, rest in this: God’s got you. He’s standing beside you, within you, and is camped around you. He is your refuge, your rock, and your strong, fortified tower.

You don’t have to be strong or know all the answers—that secret that will somehow whisk you to safety—because in Christ, you’re already safe.

Let’s talk about this! When has God proven Himself to be your rock and your fortress? How might remembering this time help you when future problems hit?

If you’re facing a difficult, uncertain period, how might it help to shift your thoughts off your ever-changing circumstances and onto your immovable Savior?

If you currently feel under attack, make sure to keep an eye out for my upcoming Faith Over Fear podcast, releasing at the endLogo image for Faith Over Fear of this month by Salem Web Communications, my upcoming Faith Over Fear Bible reading plan, and join the Faith Over Fear challenge launching on social media on February 6th. You can find the Faith Over Fear Facebook group HERE and watch a short clip on unexpected anxiety HERE. Read the passage I reference in the video HERE.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.