What is failure? The Bible is above all a story of failure redeemed, failure forgiven, failure overcome in resurrection and merciful judgement. Jesus knew that to be a follower of his would not be an easy path to walk, and he prepared his followers well for failure.
Failure. This might not seem a hopeful topic to study for Lent. In actual fact, it is one of the most hopeful topics, especially when seen in light of what Lent is bringing us towards… Easter. The Cross on Easter Saturday would have been seen as the greatest failure of all time. See Matthew 27:42 for a first hand account of how the Cross was seen. In retrospect, we know about Easter Sunday; when the glory of God’s plan for forgiveness is realised and the curtain of the law is torn forever. What was seen as an epic failure was actually, the ultimate success for humanity. When failure is viewed like this, who cannot be hopeful!
42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.Matthew 27:42
Lent is a great time to think about our failures, but let’s be careful how we approach this. During Lent, quite rightly, we bring our failures to mind and to the attention of a loving God who is always readier to forgive us than we are to repent. Sometimes, though it’s tempting to treat Lent itself as something that we should be hugely successful at. I may try really hard to give up chocolate or swearing, and find myself very smug if I get to the end of a week without indulging in either. Alternatively, I may become despondent if I happen to slip up in the scrupulousness of the spiritual disciplines I have set myself. One writer says:
I . . . wonder if a certain sense of failure during Lent is actually a good thing. In part, it reminds us that Lent is not a home renovation show. The primary goal of the season is not self-improvement; we are not here to fix up our own personal backsplash. We are trying to open ourselves to a deeper relationship with our friend and saviour, Jesus.
Above all, Lent is a time when we are encouraged to turn to God and God’s word in the Bible and allow it to be reflected in our own lives to enable us to see ourselves as we really are.Page 16
The primary thing that stops organizations, and the people within them, making the kinds of failures that may lead to success is fear, fear of getting it wrong. Such fear takes several forms: fear that we will be found inadequate for the task, fear of harming ourselves or other people (though that is probably a good fear to have), fear that we will be embarrassed or shamed.Page 32
A degree of fear of failure is to be welcomed. It is that kind of healthy fear which is the precursor to trying new things. It shows we are moving into areas that we have not been in before and are not sure how things will turn out. But some fear of failure is altogether less positive and even crippling. There is a word for an extreme fear of failure: ‘atychiphobia’, which is an abnormal, unwarranted and persistent fear of failing at something in your life.
At the root of our fear of failure is a fear of shame, ‘the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love, belonging, and connection’. There is an embarrassment connected with failure. When we fail, we feel that we are incompetent, not up to the job, somehow less.