(Note: This first posted in April of 2017.)

Does failing at something you’ve been assigned or entrusted with cause your stomach to knot? When you miss a deadline, does your thought life run amuck? The bigger question is, are you living in grace? That’s not to say we shouldn’t hold ourselves accountable and honestly assess our shortcomings and errors, but when we do, may we do so with an eye on grace.

As my guest today explains, that’s when we find peace and joy, even in the chaos.

Joy in the Chaos by Ralene Burke

As a writer and editor, there’s nothing like missing a deadline to take the wind out of my sails. That feeling of failure that wraps around my heart, squeezes, and then pops any modicum of self-esteem. Darkness falls over my day, and joy leaks away with each deprecating thought.

It didn’t start out that way, though. I was excited to receive the opportunity. I wrote it on my calendar, even setting the deadline a little earlier than the one that had been given to me. But as with many best laid plans, chaos intervened.

My husband and I got locked into a home improvement job that took more time and money than we had originally intended. Two of my social media clients had some “urgent” stuff that had to go up on social media or in newsletters right away. My allergies went into overdrive and had me laid out for a week.

My self-imposed deadline came and went. So did the one I’d been officially given.

It’s funny how the enemy knows those exact moments when we feel like a failure. When we could choose to accept the mistake and learn, joy and peace follows, but instead he presses those thoughts of what a mess we are, how there is no hope for us. He tells us God is so disappointed, along with everyone else.

Deep breath.

Ultimately, life isn’t about the missed deadlines. It isn’t about the crazy schedules or long to-do lists. Life is about opportunities. The opportunity to follow God, to be obedient, and to be His light in this world. We already know we were not made for this world, but for eternity.

We are responsible to one person: God. We are His children. And He loves us so much. He delights in us. But He’s known us from the beginning of time, long before we were born, long before time itself. He knew the lives we would have. He gave us a reason for being, passions, goals, and more. And He gave us purpose despite the mistakes we would make. Our lives are a constant learning curve.

When we put our focus on God and how He sees us, we should also find joy ourselves. Joy in the opportunity. Joy in the moment. Joy in the fact that He lovesbrock-wegner-e5hXTb9lupQ-unsplash us no matter what.

God knew I would have health issues, and they would force me to find ways to work around the normal 9-5 job. He knew being a homeschool mom would keep me hopping, making it feel like I had 2 full-time jobs. Struggling to find my place in the world would give me the grace to work with others struggling to find theirs.

Failure is something I’m quite familiar with—and not just when it comes to deadlines. With each mistake, I’ve learned that it’s an opportunity to trust God and step deeper into grace. I know God is with me at each turn. And even when things don’t go as planned (and how often does that happen?), He still loves me. He still delights in me. And my joy is found in Him.

How has God been revealing His joy to you?

About the Author:

Whether she’s wielding a fantasy writer’s pen, a freelance editor’s sword, or a social media wand, Ralene Burke always has her head in some dreamer’s world. And her goal is to help everyone SHINE BEYOND! She has worked for a variety of groups, including Realm Makers, The Christian PEN, Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, and as an editor for several freelance clients. Her first novel, Bellanok, is available on Amazon!

When her head’s not in the publishing world, she is wife to a veteran and homeschooling mama to their three kids. Her Pinterest board would have you believe she is a master chef, excellent seamstress, and all around crafty diva. If she only had the time . . .

You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website.

Let’s talk about this! I never would’ve thought I have a fear of failure. I’ve often said, which I believe, that there’s really no failure when we walk with God. It’s all learning, growing in Him and His will for us, and allowing Him to transform our thinking and will. 

But yesterday, something hit my insecurities (and revealed my people pleasing tendencies!), oddly enough, in the form of praise. A reviewer tagged me in a comment on Facebook that, in essence, let me know about THIS. It was a bit surreal to see my name listed among such great authors. That should’ve been cause for celebration, right?

Instead, I felt a tweak in my gut as I thought about the story I’m working on, one I’ve revised at least half a dozen times that I plan to release … in a few short months. (gulp.) And all I could think about was how terrible the story was, how inadequate I felt as a writer, and how I would let this reviewer and all my other readers down.

And then I had to laugh as I realized how easily I fell into the fear of rejection trap–whenever I turn my eyes off Christ and His will for me.

That, my friends, is the answer. But isn’t it always? For as Paul says in Galatians 1:10, “If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant” (NLT). 


A Faith That Won't Fail with Michele Cushatt Faith Over Fear

When life feels painful and uncertain, it can be hard to hold tight to our faith. Thankfully, God holds on to us. So long as we seek Him, He will build within us a faith that won't fail. In this episode, author, speaker, and cancer survivor shares insights she learned when her life felt upended. (Scroll down for discussion/reflective questions.) Reference mentioned: A Faith That Won't Fail: 10 Practices to Build Up Your Faith When Your World Is Falling Apart Find Michele Cushatt: On her website On Instagram On Facebook On Amazon Find Jennifer Slattery: On her website Instagram Facebook Amazon Discussion/reflective questions: What resonated with you most in this episode? Reflect upon a challenging season. What made that season most difficult? What doubts and fears tend to arise when you find yourself in a place of crisis or painful season? In this episode, Michele emphasized the importance of lamenting. What in your life might you need to lament? How might giving yourself permission to lament lead you to increased faith? What truth regarding God's character can you reflect upon to fortify your soul? What is one action step God might want you to take after having listened to this episode? Discover more Christian podcasts at lifeaudio.com and inquire about advertising opportunities at lifeaudio.com/contact-us.
  1. A Faith That Won't Fail with Michele Cushatt
  2. God Won't Give up on You with Max Lucado
  3. Why We Have No Reason to Fear Evil
  4. Fear of Other People's Judgement
  5. Fear of People – Dealing With Slander

Blue background with quote from Corrie Ten Boom on trusting God

When calling us to a place of increased fruitfulness, often God first bring us to the very place we failed. Will we courageously step forward into all He has for us, or will past disappointments keep us stuck?

I’ve stood with my feet anchored in cement, but I’ve also experienced the joy and freedom, and incredible intimacy with Christ, that comes from following His lead. And with every obedience choice, I’m learning to lift my gaze off of my weakness and lack and onto his strength and abundance.

Perhaps most importantly, I’m learning to trust that His ways truly are best and that He has the power to lead me to His best. That in fact that is precisely where He is leading me, with every step He asks me to take.

When my daughter was young, I sensed God calling me to launch a children’s ministry, and so I did. Almost without thinking. In many ways, my yeses came a lot easier back then, primarily because I hadn’t been serving long enough to experience much failure.

Initially, everything seemed great, and the ministry grew far beyond what I’d anticipated or envisioned. Initially, everything went well, and I received such joy and fulfillment from every moment, even those that brought fatigue. But then, problems hit, one after the other after the other, and all in areas I felt ill-equipped and ill-prepared for. A year, maybe two, later, I quit, confused and hurt that God would call me into something only to let me fail.

Over time, I grieved and moved on, and I began to find ways to serve once again. Fulfilling, joy-giving ways, but I carried that first failed experience with me wherever I went. As a result, I was reluctant to take significant risks. I told myself I was merely holding all things, ministry included, loosely, but really, I was self-protecting. Insulating my heart so that it wouldn’t sting so deeply, should God decide this next venture wasn’t to last.

Had I been Simon Peter, the day Jesus called him to push out into the deep, I suspect I would’ve needed a lot more persuading and cajoling. You might be familiar with the story. We find it in Luke chapter 5, which tells us of a day when Jesus was standing by the Sea of Galilee. As usual, a crowd surrounded Him. Upon seeing an Simon’s empty boat, he got in and began to teach the people from there. At some point, Simon, who had been cleaning his empty nets, got in the boat as well.

Verse 4 tells us, “When [Jesus] had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch” (NIV). Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.”

In other words, he and his partners had done everything they knew to do. They’d given it their best effort and likely had exhausted themselves trying, only to find their nets clogged with algae and plant life. From a human perspective, going for another round would only dirty the nets they’d likely just cleaned. And yet, Simon responded, “But because You say so, I will let down the nets.”

The result?

“When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their Corrie Ten Boom Quote on Trusting Godnets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.”

Jesus called Simon right back to his place of failure. In this, the God of abundance filled his nets to overflowing—just to prove He could, so that they could follow Him without fear. And that’s precisely what occurred. You see, the power wasn’t in the miraculous number of fish but in the God who commanded them. Simon was able to shift his focus off of himself, his efforts or abilities or resources, and even God’s provision and center it firmly on Jesus, His Provider and Sustainer. That was what gave him to courage to leave his now filled nets, the equivalent of a thriving 401K, to follow however Christ led.

And it all began when Simon allowed God to lead him back to the very place in which he had failed.

Let’s talk about this! When has a past failure hindered your actions? When God calls you to something, do you ever hear a nagging voice that says, “Remember last time you tried that …” What are some ways you gain courage to push out into the deep, so to speak? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and connect with me  on Facebook and Instagram. I invite those who struggle with fear to join my private Faith Over Fear Facebook community found HERE.

Speaking of stepping out into potentially deep waters, I also encourage you to check out the latest Faith Over Fear episode on finding the courage to embrace our calling.

For those following the chronological New Testament Bible reading plan:

Bible reading plan image week 9

picture of a sad womanWhat happens when you work towards something, maybe even for decades, try your best, and don’t receive the results you hope for? My guest today, Hope Bolinger, shares such a time, and how God used it to bring her to a place of increased freedom.

When Our Best Efforts Aren’t Good Enough

By Hope Bolinger

In one moment, despite my best efforts, my hopes are dashed. I’m at auditions for my high school production of Tarzan.

I’ve prepared for this moment for six months. My friends practiced walking like monkeys, listened to the entire soundtrack ten times (OK, fifty times), and we knew the script inside out.

They’ve called my name. I sing the piece I’ve selected for the piano flawlessly. The dance audition goes surprisingly well, and I actually remember every twist and turn and other French words for dance moves I can’t recall.

Lines? No worries. Don’t even need the script.

Two days later, I’m in a Taco Bell with a group of friends as we wait for the director to post the cast list online. My friend Amanda hits the refresh button. They’ve posted the list.

People begin hugging, crying. They’ve all made the cut. Every one of them. My friend passes me the phone, lights dimming in her pupils. I scroll up and down. They must’ve made a mistake, a typo, a something!

My name isn’t on the list.

I didn’t make it.

It may help to know a little about myself. I fall hard on the type 3 portion of the Enneagram. This means that every success can buoy my confidence tenfold. And every failure? You can guess what happens …

After that Taco Bell disaster, I asked the director how I could improve for the next play. She sighed through the phone and said, “To be honest, Hope, you did great. But you’re too tall for the cast.” Once again, my 5’10” height not only pushed me to the back of pictures, but it didn’t allow me a spot on the show I’d spent months preparing for.

You can bet I took this news like a champ. Meaning, I cried into my arms, my pillow, and anything else I could put my face on that night. I’d given all of myself, and it wasn’t enough.

I felt as if I wasn’t enough.

And maybe you have experienced something similar. A promotion that you worked so hard for that fell through. A time where you plucked enough courage to ask that boy or girl on a date, and they laughed in your face.

A season of trials where you prayed the right prayers, read the right verses, and yet, God would not pull the thorn out of your side (2 Corinthians 12).

So what do we do when our enough isn’t enough?

Lucky for us, we have a God who becomes our enough. After auditions and the Taco Bell incident, it took me a while to unravel the complex emotions stirring in my chest. Then I realized that I’d placed too much of my value as to whether I’d be a monkey in a chorus versus a stage manager who worked behind the scenes.Quote on purpose of God

God didn’t treasure me any more or less because I didn’t make the cast of a show. He loves me as I am and can show others His beauty, grace, and love through me whether I act on stage or paint sets.

One Tarzan show and a chance to stage manage later, I learned that it’s OK. Because I have a God who loves me no matter what I do, and that’s good enough for me.

Get to Know Hope Bolinger

Hope Bolinger's headshotHope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University’s professional writing program. More than 600 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer’s Digest to Keys for Kids to HOOKED to Crosswalk.com. She writes about 250-300 articles a year.

She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column “Hope’s Hacks,” tips and tricks to avoid writer’s block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly in the Serious Writer newsletter.

Her modern-day Daniel, “Blaze,” (Illuminate YA) released in 2019, and they contracted the sequel “Den” for July 2020. Her superhero romance she co-wrote with Alyssa Roat releases from INtense Publications in September 2020. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers on Instagram and Twitter @hopebolinger

Check out Hope’s Latest Release, Den:

Danny Belte barely survived his sophomore year at King’s Academy, having to deal with Den Cover Imagehorrible initiation practices, stomach-churning cafeteria food, and the constant threat of arson.

His junior year doesn’t start off much better. Facing a series of mysterious suicide attempts that begin on day one–and a disturbing pattern that appears to connect them–Danny has a feeling something far more sinister is at play. He tries to narrow down a list of suspects as those closest to him disappear, one by one.

Can he protect his friends from a possible murderer on the loose? Or will he find himself trapped in a fate worse than a lions’ den?

Buy a copy HERE.

If you’re struggling to bounce back from a failure or battle fear of failure, make sure to listen to Jennifer Slattery’s Faith Over Fear episode titled Moving Past the Fear of Failure. Find it HERE.


contemplativeThe big F.

When you sense a divine nudge, step out in faith even though your knees are buckling, sweat is cascading down your spine, and your stomach feels as if an army of ants not only took up residence but are engaged in some crazy acrobatics, and nothing, absolutely nothing, goes as planned.

In those moments, we may be tempted to raise our fists at God or hide away in our nice, safe homes, determined never, ever, not in a jabillion years, to do ministry again.

But what if our interpretations are wrong? What if what we perceive as failure is but a stepping stone–and a necessary one at that? The hard thing about faith, about having a finite and often faulty brain, is that we may never fully see the results or reasons behind our actions this side of heaven. I’ve shared before, looking back on my life, I remember countless patient, loving Christians whom I have no doubt were called to reach out to and love on me.

In fact, I remember one family in particular. They lived in Ferndale, and they had a daughter my age. In those days, I was a mess. And I imagine, there were many times I was quite difficult to be around. But this family took me in. Fed me, sheltered me, loved on me.

But despite their love and patience, I continued my downward spiral. I imagine they felt they had failed. Or like maybe they’d heard God wrong. Because if God calls us to do something, we have to succeed, right? We’ve got the power of Creator God behind us!

But what if His version of success is different from ours? What if He sees something we can’t–like the slow but persistent softening or healing of a heart?adultchild A heart that might take decades–maybe even a lifetime–to change? And what if in the process, He was working on our heart as well–molding, guiding, teaching, equipping, transforming us from who we are now to who He created us to be? What if every action, every assumed failure is necessary training toward our future calling?

You see, I believe God is sovereign over our successes and our failures. In fact, I believe each moment, He is watching over us with care and love, keeping an eye not only on our hearts but on our final destination as well.

As a reminder of this, I often consider two Scripture passages. They have become my life verses. I recite them when it feels as if God is raining blessings upon me and when it feels as if He’s deadbolted every door.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).

“Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16 NLT).

We are God’s masterpiece. Camp out on that for a moment.

These verses have shaped my definition of success. They remind me God has a glorious plan for me, my life, and every person I touch while here on earth. And He’s taken full responsibility to perfect that which concerns me. (Psalm 138:8) My role is simple: To surrender fully and obey without hesitation, seeking to learn and grow from each and every event or encounter.

That’s it. And here’s the beautiful thing: If I do that, I have succeeded, regardless of how things turn out.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! How often do you contemplate your assumed failures, looking for the hidden lesson God might be trying to show you through them? Are you basing your success on those things you have no control over, like how many people will come to Christ during your ministry events, how many promotions you receive, or how large your paycheck will grow if you do X and Y? Or are you basing your success on the only thing you can control and that which will bring your Heavenly Father exceeding joy–the extent of your surrendered obedience?

Other blog posts you might enjoy:
Rejoicing in Closed Doors
What’s Your Jericho

Books you might find helpful:
<em>Beyond Me by Kathi Macias
Called and Accountable by Henry and Norman Blackaby

Falling Forward by John C. Maxwell

As you probably know, our family was leveled by our recent trip to El Salvador–in a good way. We’ve known about orphans, and have felt compassion for them, but there’s something about living among them. Holding a hurting child in your arms makes it personal–puts a name and a face to the statistics. On our last night in El Salvador, my husband and I made a commitment to one another and to God–a commitment to not forget. A commitment to do what we can to create positive change. We refuse to allow the downward spiral of apathy strangle out the love God instilled in our hearts for these hurting children.

And in the meantime, God’s opened our eyes to the millions of other children living on the streets right now. Initially, we decided to keep our journey to ourselves…out of self-preservation, I’m sure, in case we fail. But as we’re trying to navigate our way toward what we believe God is calling us to do, finding little by way of direction, we realized…what if someone else wants to follow in our footsteps? Maybe the reason it’s so hard to find information is because everyone’s like us–afraid to tell others what God’s doing for fear they’ll fail, or hit a dead-end, or fizzle out.

So we decided to be candid about our journey. We’re not saying we’re going to do anything great. In fact, our goals and dreams may come to naught. But…perhaps in watching our journey you will be encouraged to press forward, even when every door appears to be closed or when common sense tells you to seek the predictable and secure.

Because here’s the thing–we were never intended to live in a vacuum. We need each other.

And, if we’re following whole-heartedly after God, there’s nothing to fear. Even failure becomes a glorious stepping stone, because if we “fail,” but do so following God, then we know our failure was God-ordained. Meaning, there was something we needed to learn, or a weakness that needed to be strengthened, or a sin that needed to be sliced out, through that failure.

So join us as we, along with a few members from our church, seek God’s guidance on how to deal with the enormous problem of global orphans.

Our journey began in a 500 foot El Salvadoran hotel room. It was our first mission trip. You may remember, I’m terrified of flying. Terrified. Prior to this trip, I hadn’t been on a plane in about 10 years. We’ve traveled all over the united states, by van. (I always joke that my husband’s an enabler, giving in to a twenty hour car ride rather than forcing his neurotic wife on a plane.)

The plane ride was rough, and at one point, the plane actually dropped. So it’s pitch black, we’re flying through a storm, and my stomach’s knotted to the point of nausea, then we drop. It felt like one of those roller coaster rides when your stomach leaps into your throat. I thought for sure we’d die. Yep, my imagination flew. I white-knuckled my seat’s armrests the rest of the flight. Then, we landed with quite a blam! (Not a crash bam, but a very rough landing, as if the ground caught our pilot by surprise.)  As I followed my husband and daughter down the aisle I wondered how I’d ever make it back home because I never, ever wanted to get on another plane. Told my husband that very thing. “I’m never doing this again! Once we get home, I’m never flying ever again!”

He laughed.

Then we got to the hotel room. We were exhausted. We’d left our house at 8:30 that morning and pulled into our hotel about 11, maybe 12. The hotel was not quite what we expected, and once again, I told my husband I was never coming back. Honestly, I wondered how I’d ever make it through the week. I’m sure God laughed, knowing the three-sixty He was about to bring me to.

Because by day three, Steve and I realized we HAD to come back.

Funny how God flips our hearts taking a selfish couple from, “I can’t do this,” to “Show me what you’d have me do. Lord, please love through me. I want to STAY!” in less than three days.

But that’s how God works. If you give Him access to your heart, He’ll rock your world. And hopefully, the world around you.