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.”
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, listen to the first two episodes of her Faith Over Fear podcast HERE and find her free Bible reading plan HERE.