Success or Failure? That depends… whose opinion counts?

Some friends of mine are going through a rough transition, walking away from something they’ve poured their heart and soul into for a lot of years. Have you ever been through that?

You catch hold of a dream – a calling – and you give everything to make a go of it. It’s not just your livelihood, though that certainly plays a big part in it. You invest your time, your talent, your family, not to mention your hopes and dreams – it becomes an integral part of who you are. Although it’s a difficult road and not always easy, that’s ok, because you are doing what God made you to do – this is your life!

And then, it falls apart.

The vision doesn’t pan out. The dream dies… slowly… painfully. You were doing what you were called to do one day, and the next day, you’re not.

It’s over.

What just happened? And, what do I do now?

As I heard about the changes my friends are going through, I really empathized and wanted to encourage them, because I’ve been through it too. For me, it was a business venture that was a “calling” – it was the first time I truly felt like I was doing what I was made to do. When it crashed and burned (15 years ago), I struggled for a long time to make sense of what happened.

The thing that was hardest for me to get past (and I’ve caught glimpses of my friends struggling with) is feeling like a failure. When your identity is so wrapped up in what you do, if that thing “fails”, sometimes you can’t help but feel that you are the failure.  But is that really true?

If we are doing what God calls us to, and it doesn’t work out the way we expected it to, does that mean that we failed? Or perhaps, does it mean that our expectations, our dreams and visions and even what we thought God had promised us… well, maybe those weren’t really part of God’s plan after all?

God isn’t surprised when the ventures we work on “fail”, but we are. And that’s probably a good thing, because if we thought going in that we would fail, we would never step out in faith.

But, we know God is calling, so we do step out in faith, believing for the best and hoping that he will bless our endeavors. Whether God blesses the results or not is not what really matters — our “success” in God’s eyes is tied to whether we are faithful to walk with him and follow his call.

Hebrews 11 gives us plenty of examples – the heroes of faith – those that were faithful to follow God yet v.39 says that “none of them received what they were promised.”

In our humanity, we judge success based on the ‘tangible’ results, whether it’s buildings, money, headcounts… whatever. But that’s NOT what God will judge us on — he looks at us as his dearly loved children and asks simply, “Do you love me?”  And maybe on top of that, “Are you loving your brothers and sisters?”

One verse in particular has helped free me from feeling overwhelmed by self-imposed expectations of what God wants from me. That verse is Micah 6:8:

“He has shown you, o man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”

We will never be “perfect” in this life: we still sin and we still fail. But, if we are faithful to God’s call and walk humbly with him, then someday God will look upon us and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

What more could I ask for?

*******************************************************

The Wandering Follower

Lord, here I am, wandering again in the desert
Wondering where this dusty road will lead
Though I’ve never been here, this terrain looks so familiar
Is there a trail of manna crumbs for me?

I don’t know why I expected it to be different… this time.
Your yoke is easy but the road is rocky and hard
I guess the dreams and visions I had of grandeur were not yours
What you deem grand are the changes in my heart.

All I know is that you call me to follow
And following you just may cause me to bleed
But this path was made by the blood that paid the price to set me free
Your grace and mercy, and knowing you, these are all I need.

I won’t claim to understand what you’re doing
And I don’t claim to comprehend your will
Maybe that’s how you felt when you hung upon that tree
Maybe that’s how you felt when you died for me?

I won’t claim to understand what you’re doing
And I don’t claim to comprehend your will
All I know is that you’re good and faithful to me
All I know is, I will follow you.

Jesus, won’t you give me strength so I can follow you?

As I started this post, I was thinking it was for my friends that are going through a difficult transition and stepping out in faith… and so it is.

But it’s also for me. And for every believer that struggles with doubts and feelings of failure. Jesus is walking with us, calling us to follow him… but he doesn’t promise to make it easy.  After all, we are following in his footsteps, aren’t we?

Have you been in the “desert”, wondering as you wander?  Are you there now?

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10 Responses to Success or Failure? That depends… whose opinion counts?

  1. Marie Hollibaugh says:

    I’d like to repost this on my blog since much of what you wrote in this post relates to much of my poetry. But I don’t know how to do it. Jenny and Cathy do it all the time with their posts. Maybe I should ask them. But I guess I need to get your permission first to repost it on my blog. Good writing. Very helpful in getting through my own rough spot in life.

    • Thanks, Marie. You’re totally welcome to re-post, I don’t mind at all. If you could provide a link that your readers can click on to come back to this site too, that would be perfect. This link http://bit.ly/nL6AE5 will take them to this post.

      Cathy or Jenny might be a good source; I’m sure they’d share how they do it. If I send you the Word doc, I’m afraid you’ll lose the formatting, etc.

      Also, I’m glad it’s helpful to you too….. I think that there are a lot of us that have those rough spots that seem to tag along.

  2. Dan,

    I find myself at a complete loss for words. You have been used to bring peace to our deepest pain. This is AMAZING. I am so thankful that your path has crossed our family’s path. I have no doubt of God’s timing, and I also have a deep sense that we are “like hearted” and it is a “gift” indeed. You have breathed encouragement in the midst of our current circumstance, where I actually thought there was none. With all of this said, I leave you with this… Thank you, my friend. Thank you.

    • You are so welcome. BTW – the poem at the end is actually a song which I will try to get recorded and send a copy your way (it sort of popped out while I was playing my new toy and thinking about what to say in this post.)

      Also, that picture at the bottom of the post is in Colorado, the sort of scenery that’s waiting for you at your new home!

    • and I know you know this, but the thanks really goes to “the big guy”, because he knows you and Matt needed that encouragement from somewhere, whether it’s from 5, 1500 or 2500 miles away. You never know how God is going to get nourishment from one part of the body of Christ to another.

      Definitely “like-hearted” w/ both of you… a “kindred spirit” as Anne of Green Gables would say (Valerie’s fave).

    • Thanks, Perry.

      BTW – anybody told you lately what a faithful servant, great friend and encourager you are? It’s the truth.
      And I’m not just saying that so you’ll cook for us more often, though that’s a fringe benefit I certainly won’t complain about! ;-)

  3. Tracy says:

    Thanks Dan, I really needed this right now! I am definitely at an impasse as to what to do with my life! It’s even harder to “hear” God’s calling, when the people you are around are screaming, (literally and metaphorically), and tugging the other way!!!!

    • Glad it was a timely word for you. You dealing with budget cuts affecting the job? Not fun….. And I know what you mean about the people around tugging/screaming & pulling the other way!

      Thanks for reading!

  4. Pingback: Guest Post: Dan McMonagle / Reconciling Viewpoints « Wurds & Pics

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