Failure is Part of It

There’s a scripture I’ve been meditating on for the past year or so.

It’s found in Acts 16:16-34 – when Paul and Silas are jailed in Philipi, for causing a riot. And by riot, I mean, for preaching the gospel and casting a demon out of a servant girl.

My biggest challenge with that scripture rests in their behavior after being accused and subsequently jailed – for no wrongdoing.

These guys sing while they’re shackled.

It’s as if they were so convinced of their bigger mission that the circumstances of the world could not stop them.

What happens next remains nothing short of incredible, too. When the earthquake batters the prison and breaks their chains, they don’t run. The jailer fears for his life. But Paul stops him.

He saves the jailer’s life. Then proceeds to share the gospel with him. The jailer invites them to his home, and they share the gospel with his family. Then he baptizes them all.

What an incredible story, right?

Man Makes Plans and God Laughs

This story makes me uncomfortable about my own response to circumstances that are not part of my plans.

When things don’t go according to plan, that’s failure, right? But perhaps not for certain.

I think back to some of my big failures. They were earth-shattering.

Granted, some of those came when I was not living out my potential. Which presents another big challenge.

When we face personal failure and inevitably start pointing fingers, all too often, we’re the main person worth of blame. At least, that’s been my experience.

But what about deviations from the plan when we are living out our potential? (Or at least making our best attempt to do so, given what limited knowledge we have.)

Meditating on Worst Case Scenarios

From time to time, I enjoy contemplating worst case scenario outcomes. It challenges me to evaluate my own intestinal fortitude, if you will. But facing the worst also brings me peace.

“Could I survive that?”

“How would I react?”

“Am I strong enough to endure that?”

…I wonder.

I like this exercise, though, because it allows me to explore just how uncomfortable a situation might be in advance – then contemplate what steps I could take to prevent sure disaster.

Separately, facing the worst case scenario and mentally enduring the struggle, enables me to make peace with my fate – recognizing every outcome less bad than that as a victory, in a sense.

Inevitable Failure

A final word on this topic, failure.

It is inevitable.

We all fail. But the good news is, we get to choose our battles.

It’s comforting to pretend that we can avoid failure altogether, if only we just play it safe enough. But that’s wrong. Dead wrong.

We will fail. Even if only in our own eyes – by failing to try.

What’s much more useful than attempting to avoid failure, then, is dedicating ourselves to fighting the battles that matter most to us.

That way when we fail, at least we can do so with the dignity of self-respect.