Reinterpreting Failure.

7:30 am.
Fall 2014.

Tense, confused, and frustrated, I stood alone in the kitchen. My wife Sarah was in the shower and our three small kids played quietly in the living room. I opened our fridge, knowing full well what I’d find, though I still hoped somehow things would be different this morning. No such magic.

It was still empty.

I sighed and trudged across the kitchen, dreading the ordeal of scraping together a meal. As water boiled, I wondered how our kids would handle rice for breakfast.

I set the steaming plates on the table, and as our 5 year old eyed her serving dubiously, a sick feeling settled into my stomach. I felt like crying.

Panic surged inside, barely kept in check. It seemed hopeless. We had no money, we were out of food, the van was running on fumes, and frantic attempts I’d made to drum up work yielded nothing.

Big Questions

I’d failed in almost every way that mattered to me. I’d failed in the business opportunity I was sure God had given me. I’d failed my wife and my kids. I’d failed myself. Questions bubbled up from inside, swamping me with confusion and anxiety.

What kind of man am I? Why wasn’t anything working? Why did I ever quit my job in the first place? Who did I think I was kidding? What did I think I was doing? How much longer would I delude myself until I got a real job? How selfish was I, putting my own work goals ahead of my family’s well-being? What could I do next? Where could I go for help? What would people say? How much judgment would I receive? Why couldn’t things just work out the way they should? Why was I experiencing this pain and heartache? I did great work — my clients gave me rave reviews… why wasn’t anything coming together for me?

Obstacles grow and mature us.

The biggest questions in my mind though, revolved around God’s leading. Why were things so tough when I was sure God had led me into this? Was God sending me a message I was too blind — or dumb — to see? Was I supposed to quit, pack up and get a regular job? What was God saying?

Since then, I’ve learned that God doesn’t force us to change course by blocking our path with obstacles and hardships. His priority is growing and maturing me. In fact, obstacles in my path are precisely what He uses to accomplish that.

The Bible records a special trip that the Apostle Paul took in the first century. He travelled from Corinth to Asia on a speaking campaign.

Clearly, he and the people in Corinth were under the impression that this trip was going to be incredible. It was going to be one of those encounters where Paul preaches and thousands are saved.

2 Corinthians 1:8–9 is Paul’s report to the Corinthian church, an update on his missions trip to Asia. Paul writes back to them: “Brothers, I don’t want you to be unaware of the hardships and afflictions we faced in Asia. We faced such hardships, such difficulties — so much that it was beyond what we could handle.”

Remember, God sent Paul to Asia. Paul, following God, was given more than he could handle — to devastating, crushing results. But Paul tells us why this happened. “This happened that I would not trust in myself, but I would trust in God who can raise the dead.”

Paul didn’t suffer affliction so he could change Asia. Rather Asia and its trials changed Paul, matured Paul, and brought him into a greater dependency on Jesus Christ.

A New Chapter

That morning, a new chapter in my life began. I opened my eyes and realized I’d allowed shame and fear of judgment to cripple me. Not once had I reached out to my community for wisdom or input . Through many conversations and a lot of prayer, Sarah and I received and applied wisdom

As I look back on that morning, and the time that’s elapsed since, I can see that God was faithful to us — right through that crisis moment. Sure, rice isn’t an awesome breakfast food, and yah, it’s no fun to not be able to drive anywhere — but you know what? God promised to provide my need. But, there’s no guarantee or clause in the Bible that says He’ll provide according to MY designs.

That morning, in full on desperation mode, I was missing what He’d already provide me with. Fact is, my family had a roof over our heads. Fact is, we were one humble phone call away from a full fridge and gas tank. Fact is, my pride and self-suffiency had crowded out my day to day awareness of my need for God.

Today, I believe that the trials I experience in my journey aren’t God saying “You know, Josh, you’re going the wrong way.We’ve got to course correct here.” Rather, He’s saying, “Will you trust me in the face of this? Will you continue to follow me forward with steps of faith? Will you allow yourself to be shaped and matured in the midst of this fire?”

And for me, that day — and every day, my answer’s yes.

Special thanks to Ross Gilbert from CrosswaysToLife.org; Ross’s perspective and wisdom have really helped me process my difficulties in ways that honour Christ and allow me to live in the freedom Jesus purchased.

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