I am always amazed at how much one must give of themselves in order to possibly have the satisfaction of achieving their dreams. This is heightened when you talk about people with dreams like winning an Olympic medal. What must all these athletes think about when training day after day? How do they stay motivated? How do they spend years rehearsing for a three minute moment to prove that they are better than all the other just as talented and adequate contenders? These are just a few of my many questions. The more I ponder the joy of winning, the more I see the equal and opposite possibilities of losing. Can you imagine making team USA and achieving your lifelong dream as a figure skater only to fall down as the whole world watches? The very routine that you had practiced tirelessly, for hours on end, will never be seen….just a tumble on solid ice will be remembered when people recall your name. The reality is that we have all been devastated by failure. It can haunt a person like an old record player set on repeat.
Yet, God has something very special to say about your failures and He doesn’t see them through our human eyes.
The Israelites were great at failing. God’s chosen people were constantly failing and achieving the ultimate disappointment, not a lack of a gold medal, but of God’s heart. In fact, I came across the most beautiful reminder of how God sees failure and I would like to share it with you. However, first I need you to close your eyes and envision your biggest failure. The more specific you are…the better. This memory should bring un-caged emotions within you that cannot be tamed. Label the failure whatever you choose – by the date, name, event, person, dream, sin or regret. Once you have the failure engraved in your mind, set it aside with me for a moment.
In order to see the beauty within the pain of failing, we must study an old sacred chest.
The Ark of the Covenant wasn’t just any gold treasure-looking chest – it was the single most important item in the Jewish faith throughout the Old Testament. Why? It carried the presence of God. Everything about the design, dimensions and quality of this long rectangular gold box (carried on four massive poles) had to be done with precision. The Lord was very clear when this was being built (just read several chapters in Numbers to learn more) as it took special men of God to humbly carry this house of scared worship. If it were up to you, what would you think should belong in such a precious box….a crown, a beautiful love letter, or maybe nothing at all could be worthy enough. Ironically, what was placed inside of the box was nothing short of the idea we all hate, “moments of human failure.” Let me explain, inside this precious container, apart from the word of God (Torah), were only three items:
The broken tablets that Moses received from God (10 Commandments)
These all signified moments of great failures in Israel’s history which could only be redeemed by God. The tablets, for instance, were broken because of the anger Moses felt when after spending time on the mountain with God only to find his followers worshiping a golden calf. The manna, while a miracle from Heaven, was given each day to the Israelites as a punishment for their spirit of ingratitude towards God’s provision. And Aaron’s rod, while it symbolized his God given approval to lead, also budded with almonds after God had to once again straighten out the Israelites disobedient actions resulting from a rebellion that had taken place which ended in thousands of people losing their lives. The reality is, apart from God’s word, none of these items had stories of success surrounding them for a human perceptive. The amazing part is that these items were chosen by God to be placed in the same place where He would dwell on earth prior to Jesus’ arrival.
Why place devastating moments of Israel’s failure with the perfection of the Most High God?
As you ponder that question, I would ask you to go back to the thing you set aside and marked as your biggest failure. Imagine putting it inside God’s hand, allowing His presence to fill the abundant shortcomings that you feel when you associate yourself with this thing. And now, let me continue the beautiful story.
While items of failure on man’s behalf may have been put inside a holy vessel, there was something placed on the top of our failures as God’s beloved people. So I ask again, why place moments of Israel’s failure with the perfection of the Most High God? The answer is that there is always something that is placed over our failures and in this case, for the Israelites and for those who believe, the costly price has not changed…it is Jesus blood. The atonement cover, the mercy seat of God was placed on the very top of this chest made of acacia wood.
God’s mercy is always over our shortcomings and failures. God can take even the most gut wrenching moments of our failed lives and when mercy is covering it, all that can be seen is God’s victory.
So I encourage you to take the failures you feel, the Olympic sized moments of disappointment that you hold onto hoping to forget, and place them under God’s covering. In this position, you are no longer holding a burden, but a gift. God’s presence will show you that in all things, even in broken battles, you are a fighter and a winner through the mercy He has given to you.