Facing Failure and Setback

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It’s February 2022 and the Winter Olympics have just ended in Beijing, China. Every four years we see Olympic stories of triumph and defeat. It was painful to watch the United States athlete Mikaela Shiffrin fail in her first two events. She was favored to win in the Giant Slalom and Slalom events. Instead, she stumbled and missed gates early on the course not once but twice within three days.

This is an athlete who, out of 229 previous Olympic, World Cup, and World Championship races, had only missed a gate 14 times! She was devastated. A few days later, she had another race and didn’t medal but finished in the top 10. Reflecting on her disappointment she said,

“It is failure. It’s okay to say that. I’m okay with that. And I’m sorry for it, but I also was trying, and I’m proud of that. I can go back and say I won medals before in my career and that’s wonderful. But it doesn’t take away any hurt or disappointment from these races, and I think it’s possible to feel both proud of a career and sad for the moment you’re in.”

This moment reminds me of ministry setbacks in the church. Let’s call them failures. These failures can come in sermon delivery, new ministry attempts, relationship conflicts, congregational divisions, miscalculated church course correction attempts, missed opportunities, and countless other ways. A ministry failure feels like a gut punch and can even paralyze you. The sting of failure hurts because of the passion and effort you invested.

The way I see it: Feeling disappointment is evidence you care. But be encouraged! We see this same heart from the Apostle Paul when he wrote in 2 Corinthians 2:4, “For I wrote to you with many tears out of an extremely troubled and anguished heart – not to cause you pain, but that you should know the abundant love I have for you.”

The emotional pain Shiffrin was experiencing showed in her on air interview. She cared deeply about not bringing home an Olympic medal. But she is not a disappointment, and neither are you. Don’t focus on the disappointment but on the abundant love you have for those you serve. When you do that, God will reward you with renewed passion and energy to run the race and finish well.


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