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The Devastation of Failure

One of the most powerful emotions that can shatter one’s soul is failure. Failure arrives on the scene of our lives through many avenues; whether it be moral, financial, vocational or personal. The weight of any failure becomes personal to the one experiencing it. We see this monster raising its’ ugly head all around us. It is an all-consuming ravaging of one’s mind, emotions, and spirit. The emotional devastation pouring out upon the soul is unbearable, finding no rest. The mind has been totally dismantled, unable to find any glimmer of hope. The body, taking input from the mind and soul, is stooped over and the head is bent down. Have we not seen this in our own lives? If not in us, then in someone we know.

King David could relate to this emotional trauma when his enemies and his companions and acquaintances hated him. Psalm 55:4-8; “My heart is severely pained within me. And the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, and the horror has overwhelmed me. So I said, ‘Oh that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Indeed, I would wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the wind, storm and tempest.’” Any of us who are in the midst of or who have experienced failure can relate to David’s painful predicament.

I think of the great moral failure in John chapter 8 of the woman caught in adultery. She was brought into the temple to Jesus by the Scribes and Pharisees. She was exposed publicly in the midst of those who were in the temple. She was guilty according to Mosaic Law and the punishment was stoning. We can only imagine how deeply this moral failure affected her. But Jesus rescued her in her moral failure and did not condemn her. “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?….Neither do I condemn you: go and sin no more.” (John 8:10b-11)

This brings to mind another account of a moral failure in the classic fictional account by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter. In this story, a young, unmarried woman, living in seventeenth-century Boston, in a Puritan settlement, is ostracized because of her sin of adultery. Hester Prynne is imprisoned and ordered to wear a scarlet “A” on her breast, having given birth to a daughter whom she named Pearl. Not willing to reveal the father of her child, she was led to the town scaffold to be publicly shamed. Although she was finally released from prison, she was required to wear the scarlet “A” on her breast at all times. She could never escape the reality of her moral failure, for the scarlet “A” was a constant reminder of her deed and failure.

I think of those who are overwhelmed with various failures in their lives. Their hearts are full of pain. Their thinking is consumed with their failure. Their emotions are unbearable and their countenances are stooping with the weight of their burden(s). In the midst of all of this misery, any diagnosis would be a relief. Maybe a diagnostician counsels you to wear a scarlet “F” on your chest everywhere you go. You agree, and you are forever reminded of having failed. That red “F” on the outside of your clothing is representative of the condition of your view of yourself on the inside. “I’m a failure.” Many don’t need a scarlet “F” on the outside. They have already taken on that “F” in their inner man. What a terrible state that is!

I want to give you some help with your feelings of failure. First, you must stop confessing that you are a failure, no matter the depth of your past failure. Take the scarlet “F” out of your mind. It is just fertile ground for the devil to torment and accuse you. Remember, King David and Peter failed. Yet, God loved them both deeply. Of King David, God said he was a man after God’s own heart. (Acts 13:22) And, Jesus said that Peter was the rock upon which He would build His church! (Matt.16:18) Second, you must grip, however feebly, onto the truth that God loves you. When you don’t love yourself and others don’t love you, you must look unto Jesus! “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick (have failed). I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Mark 2:17) Whether you are an unbeliever (as the text is expressing) or a believer, the spirit of this text is clear. He is the physician of your soul and loves you deeply, even in your failure. Confess any sin(s) that may have given place to failure in your life. (I John 1:9)

I suggest you pray like this; “’Lord, I believe (that you love me). Help my unbelief.’ (Mark 9:24) Furthermore, Lord, take this scarlet “F”, which I have succumbed to, out of my soul and give me your peace, rest and love.” AMEN!