FEAR OF FAILURE
God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
One of the most common and debilitating fears we have is the fear of failure, of disappointing others, and of taking risks. Fear of failure is the voice in our head that says, “You will embarrass yourself if you do this,” “You don’t have what it takes to accomplish this,” or “It’s too hard for you, don’t even try” ….
When fear of failure really takes over, you begin to avoid taking risks – because every risk includes a possibility that you will fail, that you will lose face, that you will embarrass yourself or people will laugh at you. Sometimes it’s not simply this. Sometimes we become risk averse because we think of all the ways the dream, vision or action we’re contemplating could go wrong.
I personally struggle with this fear as it relates to my art work. For many years I would do a painting only to have it sit gathering dust in the basement because I was afraid that people wouldn’t like it that as an artist I wasn’t good enough. In many ways I have overcome that fear, and now I have shown my art work in different venues. Yet, I still have that tinge of fear that prevents me from really stepping out to display my work.
There is a wonderful book and study we will be doing for Lent. It is written by Pastor John Ortberg and the book is entitled; “If You Want to Walk on Water You Need to Get Out of the Boat.” John Ortberg invites us to consider the incredible potential that awaits outside our comfort zone. Out on the risky waters of faith, Jesus is waiting to meet you in ways that will change you forever, deepening your character and your trust in God.
Think of it this way. You see signs while driving through the Colorado mountains that say, WATCH FOR FALLING ROCK. That’s a pretty scary thought. But you are meant to process this and ask,
“What is the likelihood of rock falling down the mountain?
What does it mean for me to watch for them?”
In the end, while you are aware of the risk, you decide you’ll exercise some caution, but it’s worth the risk. That’s how our warning system is meant to work—we feel the warning, evaluate the risk, consider the possible reward, and sometimes we avoid the path, and other times press on. We can skip this road, but we’ll skip every beautiful mountain road in life if we don’t take some chances.
Mary Tyler Moore who died last year once said, “Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.” And you may have heard hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s quip, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” So many things that are good and important in life require risk—risking failure, humiliation, embarrassment, or pain.
Maybe the first step towards overcoming a fear of failure and taking risks is to recognize that you are going to fail at times. So is everyone you know. Sometimes you are going to make the wrong decision. Someone will laugh at you. You are going to fall on your face. People will say bad things about you. And yes, these failures will hurt…but not nearly as much as you fear. Winston Churchill once said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”….
Often in Scripture God calls his people to take risks. So, let’s look at the people called to do great things in spite of their fears.
Consider Abraham and Sarah. They are living a comfortable retirement life in Haran. He’s 75 years old. Then we read in Genesis 12: “The LORD said to Abram, ‘Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation and will bless you. I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, those who curse you I will curse; all the families of earth will be blessed because of you.’” Abraham could easily have said, “No, Lord, I’ve never been to Canaan. I’m quite comfortable here. Please send someone else.” But he would have missed out on the greatest adventure, and on being at the center of God’s plans. Had he said “No,” we would not know of him today
Consider Moses. At the age of 80 he was tending his father-in-law’s sheep and goats in the middle of the Sinai when God speaks to him from a burning bush and says, “I’ve seen the suffering of my people back in Egypt. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”…But [Moses] said, “O my Lord, please send someone else.”
Imagine: God himself is speaking to Moses, and Moses tells God to find someone else. He’s terrified of failing. God’s primary response to Moses’ fear was captured in these words from Exodus 3:12: “God said, ‘I’ll be with you.’” Moses’ greatest and most profound life experiences all come after this, the purpose for which his life had begun 80 years earlier. But he almost missed it for fear
Consider the disciples Jesus called. Jesus tells his disciples, a rag tag band of misfits—fishermen, tax collectors, and who knows what else—most of whom had never been outside of the Holy Land: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”
You want us to go where? Telling them what? Over and over we find this word in Scripture: when God calls us God goes with us, and if God goes with us, we don’t need to be afraid. But even if we don’t need to be afraid, we will be afraid, which is where courage comes in.
What doing you feel God is calling you to do and you hesitate because you’re afraid of failing?
- Perhaps God is calling you to go on that particular mission trip.
- Perhaps God is calling you to get more involved with church.
- Maybe God is calling you to use that gift he has given you.
- Or maybe God is asking you to risk everything for the sake of love.
Courage pushes us through fear. But what is our courage grounded in? Is it grounded in our abilities and power? Or is it in God’s abilities and power? That requires that we trust in him. We call that faith.