When Obedience Is Disguised As Failure
Sometimes obedience looks a lot like failure.
There have been distinct seasons in my life when being obedient to God made me look like an absolute failure. I was confident I was being obedient. So why did it look like I was failing?
Have you been there?
Maybe you’ve taken a new job and after a year everything collapsed. Or you’ve reached out to an old friend in an effort to reconcile a relationship and learned they wanted nothing to do with you. Maybe you’ve started a business with God’s leading only to have the doors close six months in.
The journey looks different for each of us, but we’ve all been in this place.
One of my favorite Charles Stanley quotes is, “Obey God and leave the consequences to Him.”
All you and I are required to do is say, “yes.” God is responsible for everything else.
This little fact is easy in theory. Trusting it’s true when your world is crumbling is a bit harder.
4 Steps To Take When You Feel Like You’ve Failed
Step 1: Seek God for Answers
When we’re seeking God and desire to be obedient to Him, God protects us from taking the wrong path. Like a nagging GPS, He redirects us.
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9 ESV
So if things aren’t looking good, go back to God and ask, “Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths (Psalm 25:4 ESV).” God is not cruel that He would let you flounder in confusion. He wants to fulfill the purposes He has for you!
Ask Him if you’ve made a mistake or if this is simply a case of obedience disguised as failure.
And when He directs, trust Him no matter what you feel.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV
Step 2: Remain Confident In God’s Leading
In Mark chapter 4, we get to see a clear picture of why we should remain confident in God’s leading even when things are going wrong. Also, I’m borrowing from one of my dad’s sermons (Thanks, Dad!).
...he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side”...And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. Mark 4:35b, 37 ESV
Jesus says, “let’s go to the other side.” So of course, they go! But then a storm rolls in and it looks like they’re not going to make it to the other side. But didn’t Jesus say they were going to the other side?
The trip was Jesus’ idea. So why the storm?
I don’t know why Jesus led them straight into a storm. But what I’m sure of is that Jesus meant it when he said they were going to the other side. No storm ever stops His plan, but storms are often part of the journey.
God doesn’t tell us how we are going to make it to the other side, only that we are.
Step 3: Stay The Course
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, Ephesians 4:1 ESV
If anyone on planet earth knew what it was like to follow God from one disappointment or disaster to another, it was the apostle Paul. He was despised, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, imprisoned, and often in danger (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). Paul experienced all of this suffering as he walked in obedience.
Paul clearly stated his reason for enduring, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18 ESV).”
Paul recognized that the goal was to walk worthy of the calling, not look successful.
Step 4: Don’t Compare Your Faith Walk
How easy is it to compare journeys these days?
It doesn’t seem fair that where we once compared ourselves to a perceived image we created in our minds, we now compare ourselves to an image a person has created for us (filters and all). We’re comparing their edited snapshots to our reality. As a result, we’re all suffering from comparison fatigue.
Maybe this is why we fear failure so much.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 ESV
You were created with a unique purpose for God’s Kingdom. There will be joy and suffering, failure and success. Keep your eyes on your Maker and don’t let comparison steal your intimacy with Him.
Remember, we’re living this life for One!! That’s the heartbeat of this blog and I wrote about it in my post, “Setting The Stage For An Audience of One?")
I know it can be discouraging when obedience looks like failure (Hey! I wrote a post about that too- "How To Deal With Discouragement 101"). But I believe that as you seek God in this season, you are going to find that every moment of fear and doubt is worth the act of obedience.
Does this season look like a failure? Have you considered that it may not be a failure at all?
Verses For Further Study
James 1:22-25 ESV: But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
Psalm 1:1-2 ESV: Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Isaiah 26:3 ESV: You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.