Failure is Not an Option
We all experience failure at work. People fail us. The organizations to which we belong — and maybe even lead — fail. Failure is not reserved for the weak, incompetent, or unfortunate. It’s not something you can somehow avoid by cleverness or righteousness. It will happen, and to you.
The story of Nehemiah illustrates this vividly. Nehemiah was a high-powered, highly effective leader who did everything right. He secured funding from an outside investor to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. He completed this project in record time -- just 52 days. He re-established the Jewish faith practices in Jerusalem, then returned to his job as the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. But when he returned to Jerusalem a couple of years later, he found that the work he had done to restore obedience to God had spoiled. The people he assigned to leadership, the citizens, and the Temple organization all failed him. Nehemiah teaches us that failure is not an option. It is inevitable.
Jesus offers us hope in the midst of failure. He told his disciples, “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). On the cross, Jesus faced the ultimate failure. He was rejected politically by Rome, religiously by the Pharisees, ethnically by the Jews, and relationally by his disciples (Mark 15:34). Yet three days later, he launched a whole new business initiative called “the renewal of all things” and a new company called the church to lead the initiative (Revelation 21:5). As Christians in the workplace, God has called us to take an active part in His mission through our work.
This means that we can give all our failures to God. When we do, He can make life out of it. We can give God our broken, disfigured, and rejected team or organization and, like the body of Jesus hanging on the cross, God can make life out of it.
Father, You took the worst thing that has happened in human history -- the crucifixion of God -- and turned it into the best thing to happen to the world -- renewal of all things. So, I give you my failure and trust that you will make life out of it. I pray this in the name of Jesus who took on my spiritual failures and gave me his spiritual successes by grace through faith, Amen.
Listen to this interview with Katherine Leary Alsdorf on facing failure with the Gospel.