Rebounding From Failure
“It was going to be for the history books!” My team and I had just closed the door on what could have been the biggest advancement in Christian education in Latin America.
After two years of hard work and progress, our dream of opening Karys College died. As the visionary leader for the project, I felt that it was my dream that died. It was my failure.
By God’s grace, I was introduced to the biblical practice of lament.
The following months were hard. I wrestled with internal questions about my capacity as a leader, my ability to discern God’s voice, and even God’s goodness. As a mature believer, I knew that God would work out everything for good. However, as I tried to push past my emotions and hard questions, I became more and more bitter and angry, and less willing to engage spiritually. I wasn’t dealing with the very real pain of my failure, and it was negatively affecting my well-being.
Then, by God’s grace, I was introduced to the biblical practice of lament. It was exactly what I needed to rebound from my failure.
From Failure to Lament
In his book, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy (Crossway, 2019), Mark Vroegop defines lament as “a prayer of pain that leads to trust” Guided by the Psalms, Vroegop lays out a four step framework for lament which became life-giving to me.
Turn to God
As I tried to figure out what was next for me after my failure, I pursued several promising opportunities. They all fell through. Each closed door reminded me of my failure with Karys College, and I felt like a dark cloud was hanging over me. Yet even when I struggled to find the energy to turn to God, I was always grateful when I did. The Psalmist emphasizes this first step in Psalm 77:2: “When I was in distress I sought the Lord.”
Imagine you’re staying in a vacation rental. You’re standing in the kitchen trying to figure out how to run the dishwasher. Right behind you is the engineer who designed the dishwasher. Instead of trying to figure it out on your own, wouldn’t you turn and ask the engineer for help? Similarly, I need to turn to God when I struggle to figure out life and deal with failures. As Christians, we have direct access to the Engineer of our lives!
When I initially considered the idea of “complaining” to God, I was somewhat taken aback. Complain to God? Am I allowed to do that? Isn’t that sinful? However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the Bible is full of examples of people complaining. David asks, “Why, LORD, do you stand far off?” (Ps. 10:1) Jesus even quotes Psalm 22:1 on the cross when he cries, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Coming humbly to God and complaining allowed me to ask tough questions about my failure and connect honestly with God through the very real pain I was experiencing. My most common complaint was “God, I know you don’t mean evil, but it feels like you do now.”
At this point in the lamenting process, we shift our focus from our pain to God. We make a request of God to act on our behalf. Examples from the Psalms include “Arise, O, Lord!” “Grant us help!” “Teach me!” “Restore us!” As I asked God to help me deal with my failure, I could feel a sense of hope being restored in my spirit. Asking God boldly was like a spiritual cup of coffee for my soul.
He is faithful!
“Have you ever failed before?” The question took me by surprise as I sat in a debriefing session not long after we closed Karys College. It reminded me of when I had put off my graduate studies to pursue a career in music, only to have the lead vocalist of the band leave the rest of us for Nashville. However, it also reminded me of how God, in his sovereignty, timed everything perfectly in that situation to set me up for my next stage of life. He was faithful then, and he would be faithful in my current circumstance as well. The last step in the lamenting process is to trust that God will do what he says he will do. He is faithful!
It took ten months and an international move for me to discover what God had next. It wasn’t easy, but working through the biblical practice of lament was pivotal in helping me rebound from my failure.
Dustin Miller works with International Care Ministries, a poverty alleviation ministry that impacts hundreds of thousands living in ultra-poverty every year. He currently lives in Sarasota, Florida, with his wife, Emily, and their two sons. Dustin is also a member of Christian Leadership Alliance’s national Advisory Council.
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