4 Keys for Coming Back from Your Greatest Failures

Here is #21 of 31 Questions in 31 Days! To learn more about this 31 Day series, just search "31 Questions" in the search bar above or click here! 

Q #21:  How can I overcome what seem like paralyzing failures?

A:  As a minister, I have been there when lives have come apart from shattering personal issues.  Adultery.  Divorce. Bankruptcy and foreclosure.  Arrest and public embarrassment. Unexpected pregnancy and abortion.  Addiction that decimates a person's life.  And countless other troubles.

And it's likely, no matter who you are or what you do, you will, at some point, stumble so fully in life that you wonder if you can ever recover.

I've also often witnessed when people have overcome their greatest failures.  I have known people who have seen their marriages fail, their career tank or their deepest secrets revealed in a public way, and they, like the Phoenix, have risen from the ashes to incredible new heights.

So what's the secret?  What keys do you need to unlock the door to prevail when you think all is lost?

One essential skill of the person who comes back from crippling trouble is that they fully own their part in what went wrong.  As long as it's someone else's fault or just bad luck or bad genes, you will likely repeat the mistake.  Owning the bad choices or the weaknesses in yourself is a foundational ingredient in overcoming failure.

"Owning" it means you recognize it belongs to you.  You were the one who let down your family.  You were the one who made the choice to break the law.  You were the one who "lost it" when the pressure was on.  Owning it means you're not blaming anyone else but yourself.  Owning it will give you the power to work on it and correct it.

The words of King David 3000 years ago still ring true.  In his prayer of confession in Psalm 51, attributed to his repentance following his public humiliation through scandal, adultery, murder and deceit, Israel's greatest king give us these instructive words:  
For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge (vv. 3-4).

Owning it also involves paying back whatever you owe anyone.

I've known a number of people have been the subject of public scandal.  The ones who truly come back from the scandal stronger are those who begin telling the full truth about it at the start.  This isn't only because the truth sets you free, but it allows you to bring into clear focus the issues that led to your failure.

If you are continuing to try to whitewash the ugly truth about what you did or what part you played in why you failed, not only will you not be able to work on the root issues that made you fall, but you will likely miss out on the power that will come into your life because you have suffered.  People who come back from failure and keep telling the whole truth about it end up with great skill in helping others who have failed in life.

I love the promise found in the New Testament book of James.  "Confess your sins one to another... that you may be healed" (James 5:16).  A full confession to others is a sure path to coming back from failure.

Own it.  Tell the whole truth.  AND get some help.

Find someone who is able to help and ask for them to help.  For me, I seek out help from people who have either been through the same stuff or who have professional expertise in helping.  Therapists, counselors, and clergy can all be sources of light when you're in a dark and difficult dungeon of your own making.  I find many older people who have been through similar struggles a great source of practical help and inspiration when I have failed or when I feel like giving up.

We're all broken in some way and most of us need someone to point the way out of the woods when we are lost.  Find someone who can help you face and deal with the underlying personal issues that led to the failure.

Coming back from personal failures is helped out greatly by an attitude not only of faith that everything will work out, but a confidence that God will bring good from the mistakes you made.  

Maybe the redemption will be in a marriage that is more precious than ever.  
Maybe the redemption will be in a new recognition of grace in your life.  
Maybe your issues will give you a grown capacity to forgive others.  

Whatever the case may be, whatever you did, it's not the end.  God has the power and regular habit of making good out of our worst stories.

You can hear this hope in King David's prayer of repentance mentioned above.  After owning his sins and asking God to forgive, we find him praying these words of hope that look beyond his present trouble:
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
    you who are God my Savior,
    and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;

    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings (Psalm 51:13-16). 

Check out more posts from the 31 Questions series on subjects as varied as marijuanainfidelity666the eternal destiny of children who diedealing with discouragement, cremationco-habitationbaptismsuicideprayer, the origins of scripturehell, workthe third heaventithingOld Testament salvationgiving in the Old Testament, reading Proverbs, and even speaking in tongues! 

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