It was a beautiful summer night. I was sitting on my back porch enjoying a cold beverage and a good book. The glow of the bistro lights paired perfectly with a light, 70-degree breeze.
But true to form, the serene moment was shattered by my clumsiness. I needed to shift my chair and, while totally engrossed in what I was reading, failed to notice one of the chair legs hung precariously off the edge of the cement patio block. Seconds later, I fell toward the BBQ pit. My body, phone, and book crashed onto the hard pavement below.
Face down on the cement, I began assessing myself. “Am I bleeding? Did I break anything?” With nothing more than a throbbing, bruised hip and a broken chair, I decided I would survive.
This is the part in the story whereI would usually laugh. I would dust myself off, look around, and think how glad I was that no one witnessed my supremely boneheaded fall.
But when I hit the pavement that night, do you know know what I felt? Embarrassed. Even though no one saw me, I was ashamed I had let myself fall. I mean it’s ridiculous, right? Who falls off their own patio?
So I did what any normal person would do—I cried. Face down on the pavement, with the patio chair sprawled on top of me, I wailed to God, “I deserve to be here! I’m so stupid. Why didn’t I pay better attention? I keep messing everything up!”
At this point, it became clear I was not merely crying about falling out of my chair. Physically hitting the ground triggered deeper feelings of failure that I’d been fighting for months. In fact, just earlier that afternoon, I’d analyzed my budget and realized I wouldn’t be able to pay off my credit card debt—even if I lived on Ramen noodles for the entire month.
In my heart, I had begun to believe my moments of failure defined me as a failure. Hitting the pavement knocked this lie out and forced me to face it.
I know I am not alone in struggling with feelings of failure. So what should you do when you feel like life has you on the ropes?
Here are three tips I’ve found helpful to stop the spiral of self-pity and regain the vision God has for you.
Recite the Truth
You may feel like a failure, but is that true? The Word of God says, “Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes” (Ephesians 1:4 NLT). When you find yourself fighting feelings of self-pity, defeat, or failure, write down exactly what you’re thinking. Then search the Word for verses that speak the truth about who you are and read them out-loud. Write these verses on your mirror and make them your phone’s screensaver. Put the truth everywhere, so that you will be reminded daily of your true identity.
Get Up and Repent
When you physically fall, what is the first thing you do? You stand back up. If you are face down on the pavement because of a real or perceived failure in your life, it’s time to stand up, dust yourself off, and get your prayer on. It’s okay to feel sad or lost, but don’t camp there. The only way to break the addiction of self-pity is to repent and ask God to redirect your focus on His greatness. If you need some encouragement, read James 1:5-8.
If [you] lack wisdom, ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to [you]. But ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5-8 NLT)
Create a Contentment Regimen
When combating feelings of failure, one of the greatest challenges you will face is the belief that you are powerless because you can’t change your circumstances. While you may not be able to change where you are in life, you can adjust your attitude about it. True contentment reminds us to embrace the present moment without replaying the past or pining for the future. But it requires practice and repetition similar to a fitness regimen. Consider writing down three things you are thankful for every morning to posture your heart and mind to be grateful throughout the day.
As I’ve practiced these habits, I’ve found my circumstances may remain the same but my days become more fulfilling and hopeful.
If we want to overcome feelings of failure, we have to believe the Word of God over any other voice that attempts to define us. When we fail and feel the temptation to stay down, we must get back up and stop the cycle of self-pity by practicing contentment and staying present to God’s goodness. Remember, how you feel today doesn’t dictate where you are headed tomorrow. You are not a failure. You are who God says you are. So get up and go live that out with all your strength.
The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. —Psalm 32:8 NLT
To dive deeper into this topic, check out Called, a ten-part course from John Bevere designed to help you unlock and live your calling.
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