How should I respond to failure and setbacks?
When the men of Israel returned in defeat from Ai, Joshua needed some answers and so turned immediately in prayer. He tore his garments, an act of grief, and fell on his face in humiliation before the ark of the covenant until nightfall. All of the elders joined him. Joshua cried out to God,
“O Lord God, why did You ever bring this people over the Jordan, only to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? (Joshua 7:7).
Joshua asked the wrong question — a question many of us ask when unexpected trouble strikes. Often our first impulse is to ask why or to blame God for the tragedy or problem overwhelming us. We cry out,
“Why me? What did I do to deserve this? Why did You allow me to get in this mess?”
Though all of us have asked them, these are not the right questions. When difficulty comes, we need to ask the Lord one question:
“What do you want me to learn in this situation?”
We can express our hurt or frustration, but the bottom line must always be one of surrender and openness to His will for us.
Sometimes, we may need to change a habit or correct a bad attitude. Perhaps we need to deal with some area of sin or poor judgment. When Joshua stopped pouring out his frustration, God said,
“Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them . . . Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies” (Joshua 7:10–12).
When we go to the Lord in prayer, we must be willing to hear what He says. Often, we don’t stop to listen to Him. We must learn to wait to hear His response when we voice our petitions.
This is especially true when we pray in the aftermath of a setback or defeat. It is also vitally important when we are tempted to blame God or become angry over our troubles. We must be willing to accept His assessment of our situation, which often includes Him correcting an ungodly behaviour or attitude in us.
Once the Lord reveals to us what we need to do, nothing more needs to be said. We must accept God’s will and immediately move to obey Him. Our obedience may include asking Him to forgive us and to help us obey Him in the future. It may also require we make amends or take specific actions that will help right the wrong. Whatever the case, our submission to His direction must follow quickly.