What to Remember When You Feel Like a Failure

by Rob Tims

My oldest sons (11 and 12) have excelled in recent months as chess players. Sensing they had reached a plateau, I signed them up for a weekend tournament in Atlanta, GA. My only ask was that they play in a bracket above their current rating. My thought was that by treating them to a weekend away, exposing them to different players, and challenging them to play people better than them, they would see just how good they were and discover areas of weakness to work on. That is, I meant to inspire them to press on and become exceptional chess players.

I failed, especially in the eyes of my oldest son.

Excited for the challenge, he studied daily leading up to the trip. So when he won only 1 match of 5, he was utterly devastated. “How could I have worked so hard only to fail so miserably?” He cried for hours all weekend. Such is the plight of one who gives himself dutifully to the perfect of his craft, only to discover he will never be as awesome as he thinks he should be. And the way he felt about chess, I felt about parenting.

Have you ever felt that way about your faith in Jesus? Have you ever believed that you had taken great strides, only to suddenly and unexpectedly fail? In those moments, I have found Hebrews 4:14 to be a tremendous comfort, as it directly states the one thing I need to remember when I feel like a failure.

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens ​— ​Jesus the Son of God ​— ​let us hold fast to our confession.

The one thing I must remember when I feel like a failure before God is that Jesus wasn’t a failure on my behalf. He interceded perfectly, and for this reason, I must hold fast to my confession, not wallow in my misery. Commentator Raymond Brown writes, “The confession of the faith we possess is a treasure beyond price. It cannot be lightly dismissed or thoughtlessly abandoned. It makes life worth living” (emphasis mine). To confess something is to speak the truth about that which is already true so that we live in the present according to that truth. So if we’re going to live truthfully before God when we feel like a spiritual failure, we need to confess that which is already true: Jesus was not a failure, but a victorious mediator.

Have you ever failed in your faith in Jesus? Have you ever believed that you had taken great strides in your faith, only to suddenly and unexpectedly fall? Remember this: Jesus didn’t, and what He did applies to you who believe.

Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.

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