A place of writing and reflection…
Jeremiah, say this to the people of Judah: ‘This is what the Lord says: “‘You know if a man falls down, he gets up again. And if a man goes the wrong way, he turns around and comes back.
I grew up with the firm belief that any believer who was walking in God’s will could not fail in the pursuit of his God-given appointment. After being in Los Angeles for only six months I had already found work on a hit sitcom with one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, making five times per week what my father was earning. I felt like I was golden, like God was blessing me beyond all others. I thought of myself as the poster boy for “whatever they do prospers” (Psalm 1:3). I considered myself a walking testimonial for “I will do whatever you ask in my name” (John 14:13). Although I was enormously grateful to the Lord for my relatively instant success, I was not at all surprised by it.
Watching it all evaporate with similar speed, however, knocked the wind out of me. I was brokenhearted, ashamed, and humiliated. I was confused and frustrated. My dad would have probably told me easy come, easy go, and to remember that money isn’t everything.
How God Uses Failure
For some of us, failure can be a way in which God gets our attention. It’s a tap on the shoulder in an effort to get us to come back to him if we have wandered away and gone astray. Sometimes that tap can be a painful experience that he uses to express his fatherly love.
For others, failure can serve as a reminder that we cannot live a truly Christian life on our own, independent of God. At times the Lord will put us in a scenario that will convince us we are inadequate, so that we don’t try to go it alone. He uses failure to remind us that we need to depend more on him.
Looking back, I believe that God allowed me to experience failure because there were lessons I needed to learn that I could not have learned through success. But it took awhile for me to understand this, and I don’t want to get ahead of my story, so you’ll have to get the book to find out what those lessons were! The next time you fail, you might ask yourself if the Lord might have allowed you to fail in order to ready you for something completely different, and this “something” might only be achieved through failure.
It’s quite possible that if I had not experienced failure and had continued without a glitch on that road to “success,” I would not be where I am today in either my life or my spiritual walk. This is because at twenty-two years of age, I had no idea of what true success was. I believed then, as I do today, that God had placed a dream in my heart, but the Lord and me, well, we had different ideas of what living that dream was going to look like. I was dreaming of swimming pools, movie star friends, and massive paydays. The Lord? Not so much. I believe God allowed me to fail because he knew that was the only way I would eventually “change lanes” and see things his way.
Is this a different way of looking at failure for you? It’s been convicting and encouraging for me to realize that my failure may be considered a success in the greater scheme of things and in the eyes of God. This understanding has changed the way I look at failure. When we see how God uses failure, we begin to see it as our friend rather than our enemy—as something we should welcome and go through rather than avoid or deny.
Sometimes failure is an opportunity to respond with courage and faithful dependency as opposed to anger, despondency, or rebellion.
You May Never Know Why … So What?
It goes without saying that we should try to learn from our failures and determine if there is a lesson God is trying to teach us. I encourage you, however, not to get too hung up on why God allowed you to fail. I know it is part of human nature to try to unravel the “why” of things. I consider this unrelenting curiosity one of humankind’s greatest strengths, but we have to accept that when it comes to the mind and sovereignty of God, we may never know why some things happen. It’s pointless to spend sleepless nights, tossing and turning, trying to understand why God allowed this or that terrible misfortune to enter our lives. We don’t have to understand why it happened in order to benefit from it.
Instead, ask yourself, how should I have behaved in the situation? Or how will I act differently the next time? Consider how God would have wanted you to behave and respond. Ask how you have been strengthened by the ordeal and how you are now better prepared to move forward. At the time, I didn’t realize the wisdom of looking at failure this way, and therefore I internalized it. This is another example of don’t make the mistakes I made. I didn’t ask myself these questions and instead allowed the experience to beat me up for years to come.
Everyone is going to fail from time to time, but you are only considered a “failure” when you allow failure to defeat you. You are only a failure when you give up and refuse to try again. Remember, there is a difference between failing and being a failure.
Henry Ford had five businesses that failed and left him broke before he founded the Ford Motor Company. Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for “not being creative enough,” and Elvis Presley was told at his Grand Ole Opry audition to “go back to driving a truck.”
It is not God’s master plan that we become failures. This would make Christianity a very unpopular religion. There are times, however, when God will allow us to fail today so that we might succeed tomorrow. Deep within your failure are planted the roots of your success.
Failure, in varying degrees, is inevitable along the path to dream fulfillment. So when you fail, don’t despair or think God has abandoned you. Take comfort in knowing failure doesn’t mean you’re finished. You’re only finished if you quit. Ask for God’s strength to continue, and allow him to build within you the endurance you’re going to need in order to live the dream he has planted in your heart. Every hardship you endure, every failure you withstand, could very well be a stepping-stone to success and the realization of your dreams. Try to maintain a positive perspective. Don’t spend years of your life wallowing in hopelessness. Try not to become bitter and angry. In other words, don’t do what I did.
Taken from Between Heaven and Hollywood: Chasing Your God-Given Dream by David A.R. White. Learn more at DavidARWhite.com.
David A.R. White is an actor, writer, director and producer in Hollywood, CA. Though he has many credits to his name, White’s career hit new heights with the release of the blockbuster film God’s Not Dead, in which he also starred. He is currently the most visible actor/producer in faith films, having starred in and produced over forty of them. This article is an excerpt from his new book Between Heaven and Hollywood, in which he chronicles his inspirational journey from the wheat fields of his Mennonite home outside of Dodge City Kansas to the bright lights of Los Angeles, as well as the lessons he learned along the way.