God has really been hammering me on the issue of fear in a slightly different way than I’d imagined. He keeps showing me stories and verses related to failure and success. Here’s a devotional that I found in my inbox this morning:
Thoughts for Today
What words come to mind when asked to describe yourself? Sometimes we might define ourselves by listing our failures and our negative traits. But God has a different perspective! If we are followers of Christ, this is how God sees us …
We say: I’m a failure. I can’t do anything right.
God says: You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. Philippians 4:13
We say: I still feel guilty about things I’ve done in the past, even though I’ve confessed it all as sin and don’t do those things anymore.
God says: I blot out your sins and remember them no more. Isaiah 43:25
We say: Sometimes I feel so unlovable. How can God possibly keep on loving me?
God says: God says nothing can separate us from his love. Romans 8:38-39
We say: I tend to be such a fearful person.
God says: The righteous are as bold as a lion. Proverbs 28:1
God sees us as righteous, wise and forgiven. He sees us as his treasures, his children.
Lord, thank you for clothing me in the righteousness of Christ. Help me not to think too lowly—or too highly—of myself, but to see myself as you do. In Jesus’ name …
And then I read an article on Olympic diver Laura Wilkinson in Today’s Christian Woman (TCW) and she addressed the issue of failure and success. If God doesn’t get to me through this, I don’t know what will! I’ve posted excerpts of the TCW interview that spoke to me (occasionally interspersed with my commentary) under the cut.
How do you cope with fear?
Breaking things down helps. For example, there was one difficult dive I didn’t learn for years. So I built it up in my head as this monster dive I could never do. I finally sat down and asked myself what exactly I was scared of. I started listing everything: I’m scared of smacking my head on the board. Well, I told myself, I’ve done that before. It only lasts a few seconds. That’s not a big deal. I’m scared of getting lost in my dive, of losing my sense of which way is up. That’s a legitimate fear, I told myself, "You’ve had problems with this in the past. But your coach taught you how to re-spot and find your bearings."
I systematically went through all my fears and put them in perspective. I also prayed about it and read a lot of Scripture.
How did the competition turn out?
I ended up winning that meet; and I had no business winning.
Yeah! I didn’t sense that God had made me win, but more like he was showing me he has good plans for my life. That he isn’t going to let me fall. I haven’t won every competition; I’ve lost a lot more than I’ve won. But I know he always has better plans for me than I could dream up myself. Remembering that experience gives me confidence in God and his control over my life.
The sentences in italics remind me that I’m not always going to win and that I will fail. I stopped writing professionally because of a rough incident I endured back in college. I reported crime statistics at the university and the managing editor received scathing calls from the Public Security and the Public Relations departments complaining that my stats were all wrong and that I made crime problems look worse than they really were. Of course, the newspaper adviser — and my journalism professor — advised me that it was no big deal but the ordeal scared me. I thought, If I can’t accurately report statistics at a college level, how can I be accurate in my reporting on a professional level? Especially with statistics since I’m not good with math? The possibility of bringing a libelous suit upon a publication has plagued me since — and has kept me from writing commercially. Dipping my feet back into professional journalism is a big risk for me and will reveal a whole host of insecurities. But I’ve got to take the risk and trust God to help me succeed and give me strength to learn a lesson when I fail.
Has losing taught you lessons as well?
Definitely. In fact, I received an e-mail today from a little girl who’s always done well at rodeo, and then suddenly she didn’t make it to nationals this year. She said, "If I’m a Christian, why does God let me lose? And why do people who don’t know God win?"
I think we’ve got to stop attaching winning with God. We don’t just give our lives to God and suddenly they’re perfect and problem-free. Actually, the opposite is true. Life becomes harder. We have to rise to new challenges, and we get knocked down a lot. God doesn’t say if we have tribulation, he says when.
This is a fallacy that I bought into when I first became a born-again Christian. Christianity appealed to me because I thought it could save me from being suicidal and depressed for the rest of my life. Granted, I was problem-free for the first year after accepting Christ, but then trouble weaved its way back into my life and was left confounded as to why since I "thought" all my problems were supposed to disappear.
So how do you respond to those failures?
We have to hold onto the truth that no matter what we go through, God isn’t going to turn his back on us. He’s always there for us. Sometimes we fail because he’s going to show us something through that. Or he’s going to send us in another direction. God always has a purpose in what he does, and it’s usually to grow us and make us more like him. It’s OK to be disappointed in times of failure—that’s totally normal. But then we have to step back and see the bigger thing God’s trying to accomplish.
God doesn’t promise a life filled with roses and sunshine; in fact, he
insists that we will have a life filled with trouble, discouragement,
and even despair. This isn’t because God hates us, it’s to teach us to
rely on Him and to trust that He will carry us through. I need to trust that when I don’t "win," there’s a lesson that I need to learn to help me succeed the next time — if he’ll allow me to succeed.