Overcoming the Fear of Failure

All of us, at one time or another, experience failure, and the fear of failure. If you succumb into this fear, you will never arrive at what God has meant you to be. You will have a lot of dreams, a lot of good intentions, but you will always live a life of “could have, should have, and would have.”

The fear of failure is nothing new. In fact, Jesus told a story about it in Matthew 25, the parable of the talents. The master gives one man five talents, another two, and the last, one. He goes on a long journey and says to them as he is leaving, “By the way, invest it and do something with it.”

The one servant who was given five talents invests and gains five more, and the one with two talents gains two more.

Let’s take a closer look at the last servant. This servant was so afraid of failure that he took that one talent and he buried it in the ground and just kept it there. When the master returned, he dug it up and came to the master saying, “I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground; see, you have what is yours.” But his master answered and said to him, “you wicked and lazy slave.” (Matthew 25:25-26)

Wicked and lazy slave! When we are so afraid of failure, we don’t take risks nor do we venture forward. Nothing ventured, and nothing gained. The Bible says you cannot please God by playing it safe.

Let’s look at how to overcome the fear of failure.

1. Remember that everybody fails.

Everybody fails one time or another, and it is no big deal. It’s universal, every single person! “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

2. Realize that failure is not final.

Failure is not final. In fact, the fear of failure is often worse than the experience itself. Proverbs 24:16 says, “For though a righteous man falls seven times he rises again.” Even good guys stumble. The righteous falls seven times. Not once, not twice, but seven times and yet… he rises again.

Most people give up far too soon. What you find going through failure is the pathway to success. And when you stumble and fumble, God will use your experience to build you up.

3. Recognize that there are benefits to failure.

Psalm 119:67, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.”

Sometimes failure is what brings us to the Lord. At first we think we can do it on our own but as we struggle in our frailties, we are driven to our knees and turn to God.

Let’s take a look at three benefits of failure.

  1. It educates us.
    Thomas Edison had 10,000 failures before he perfected the incandescent light bulb. At ten thousand failures someone asked him, “Aren’t you discouraged? Don’t you feel like a failure?” Thomas Edison’s reply was, “I don’t call it a failure,” he said. “I call it an education. I now know 10,000 things that do not work.”
  2. It helps us to discover our true talents.
    Nathaniel Hawthorne is one of America’s great writers. He was once a customs clerk, but disliked it. Instead he wanted to write, but he didn’t have any time. One day, he got fired from his job. Despondent, he went home and sat at the kitchen table with his head in his hands and said to his wife, “I am such a failure. I cannot even provide for my own family.” Being the loving wife she was, she did not say a thing. She silently got a ream of paper, put it in front of him with an inkwell and a quill pen and said, “You always wanted to write, Nathaniel, but you did not have the time. Well, you have the time now.” And Nathaniel Hawthorne penned “The Scarlet Letter”, one of America’s greatest books.
  3. It makes us less judgmental.
    When you fail, you become more sympathetic, sensitive and kind towards others. It also restrains your arrogance. If there is no other reason for failing except that we are a little more merciful to others when they fail, it is a great reason.

4. Redefine failure.
Some people have the wrong definition of failure according to the world’s view.

Here’s a new definition: failure is not failing to reach your goal, failure is not setting any goals to reach. Someone said it this way, I would rather attempt to do something great for God and fail, than to plan to do nothing and succeed.

5. Replace my fear with faith in Christ.

Even if you stumble, fumble, and fall, God will see your heart. Do not be afraid, but make sure that your goal, and your motivation is love. When you do it out of love, you never fail, because love never fails.

Let me let you in on a secret. We all mess up but God is looking for your heart. Keep your heart right, place it before the Lord and He will turn every failure to good. “…God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

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