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  • Writer's pictureRoss Moughtin

How to handle failure

"We need to end the season on a high. We want to finish by winning all of our games. We'll do everything we possibly can to make that happen." But doing everything was soon no longer an option for David Moyes. From the Chosen One to Reject within the one season, almost messianic in his failure to manage MUFC. A huge disappointment, not least to himself. And yet we all need to cope with failure, with disappointment, if we are to do anything worthwhile. It’s part of the territory. “There's always failure. And there's always disappointment. And there's always loss,” observes actor Michael J. Fox. “But the secret is learning from the loss, and realizing that none of those holes are vacuums.” I well remember at the very outset of my ordained ministry helping to organise a Saturday morning workshop (that was the word we used in the 1976.) We were waiting for people to arrive, church members wanting to grow in the Spirit – and it struck me, what would happen if only a handful arrived. I realized there and then that to prosper in ministry I would need to know how to handle disappointment. One approach is simply not to risk failure and do nothing. This can an attractive option to the risk averse, simply retreat into our comfortable routine and avoid challenge of any kind. We choose to bury our entrusted talents in the earth. However, sooner or later the Master will show up. We have a responsibility before God to use what has been entrusted to us. Staying within the parable, we need an entrepreneurial spirit and that means the risk of failure. Clearly, we need to know how to deal with disappointment, certainly if we are to do anything for the Kingdom of God. It is part and parcel of any ministry. The key is being able to distinguish between having disappointments and being a disappointment. George Clooney, no less, confesses on being a disappointment. “My parents were disappointed I didn't finish college, and they were really upset when I went to Hollywood to become an actor. I was a big disappointment to them.” That means a life chasing success. But a Christian can never be a disappointment, no matter how many failures may lurk in our closets. For the truth is that I am a beloved child of God, forgiven and restored, entrusted with his Holy Spirit. We can never be a disappointment. God refuses to make that’s happen, despite the cost. So the apostle Paul can write: “And hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5). The first step in the Christian life is simply to appreciate how much we are loved. And the cross of Jesus shows the full extent of God's love. So the apostle Paul – who faced disappointment continually – urges us. “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:16). For once we are in the Kingdom of God, everything changes. What we would consider failure and disappointment God may use in a powerful way, well beyond our imaginations. It’s a whole new ball game, David.

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