Dealing with Failure

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)
Aaron’s Rod

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.


Soul Anchor

An Anchor For Your Soul

A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of spending a week in Aruba for my honeymoon. I was able to enjoy one of the most breathtaking environments imaginable from a small boutique resort right on the Caribbean ocean, with perfect weather, warm water, and of course my beautiful wife. Life was good. In fact, it had never been better. But just a month later, the honeymoon was over, both literally and figuratively. In that short period of time, my life went from an incredible high to an unexpected low.

My wife and I, just weeks after getting married, were planning to move across the country – coast to coast – from Nova Scotia to British Columbia. For those of you not familiar with the Canadian landscape, that’s a trek of over 6,000 kilometres (or almost 4,000 miles, for you Americans still enslaved to the imperial system, haha). But my wife and I viewed it as our first great adventure as a married couple, so we packed up the car and hit the road.

Seven days and 2,500 miles later, we turned around and came back.

While I won’t go into the details, God brought an event into our lives that was personally heartbreaking, financially crippling, and spiritually challenging. The primary reason we were relocating to British Columbia was so I could attend Bible College, as I felt called by God into full-time ministry. So when I was faced with the reality that we would have to turn around and go home to Nova Scotia, I felt lost. I didn’t know what my next step would be. But I knew one thing was for certain: God isn’t just there in the good times, He’s there in the bad times as well.

I’m reminded of this story because this past Sunday I introduced a new song called “Anchor” by Ben Fielding to my church in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I’m the Worship Pastor. The song is based on a passage in Hebrews 6 that states:

 “Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.”

We’re all going to face challenging times in our lives, whether it’s struggling with the loss of a loved one, being hurt by something that someone has said or done to us, or by reaching a crossroads in our lives and wondering what our next step will be, as I was in my story. But through all of those circumstances, God has promised to be our refuge. He’s our anchor.

On the last day that my wife and I were in Aruba, we took a boat tour of the island. During that two hour or so cruise, I learned two things: 1) Aruba is a truly beautiful place where I’d love to retire someday, and 2) I get seasick. While I thoroughly enjoyed sitting on the deck of the boat, taking in the coastal scenery, I was falling victim to the movement of the sea around me. I was never as thrilled as when that boat dropped anchor and I was back on solid ground again. Miraculously, my lunch made it back to shore with me as well.

The picture of a boat dropping anchor is how the author of Hebrews is describing God in our lives. When a boat drops its anchor, it secures itself to a place from which it will not move. Whether in the midst of a storm when a boat requires stabilizing from the elements of the sea, or in a calm harbor when it simply needs to remain secure so it won’t go adrift, the well-being of the boat – and its occupants – is entrusted to the anchor. The same is true of God in our lives. No matter what the circumstance, God will keep us secure in Him. Just as a boat that is not firmly anchored is at the mercy of the sea, if we are not firmly anchored in Christ then we will find ourselves adrift and at the mercy of the circumstances of life.

As Christians, it’s easy to rejoice in the greatness of God when things are going well in our lives. But it’s how we respond in the tough times that truly reflect our relationship with the Father. As John Piper has said, “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him, in the midst of loss – not prosperity.” That kind of response is only possible if God is our anchor.

So no matter the circumstances you find yourself in, whether you’re going through the storms of life or you’re in a calm time, remember that in every circumstance you have an anchor for your soul.



Why God May Be “Closing Doors” In Your Life

Have you ever had a moment when you’re trying to push a door open and then you look up only to realize it says, “pull?” I have done this a time or two – trying to force my way into a department store hoping there are no prying around when I realize my foolishness! Ironically, people use the idea of an ‘open door’ all the time when referring to moments of victory in their life. Statements like, “God opened the door” comes out of Christians often as a way of sharing a great testimony – but I wonder, what is really meant by the expression? Undoubtedly, God can allow circumstances and situations to come together for the good of His plans and purposes; however, what about all the heartbreaks, the shut doors, things that we see as unwanted endings instead of new beginnings? I have come to learn that there is great gratitude owed to God’s power in closing doors.

About a year ago, everything seemed to scream “no” in my life. Jobs, opportunities, and situations that were a ‘shoe in’ fell right through the cracks – my broken hopeful future left me feeling broken and confused. And because I am not a quitter, I tried everything to open the doors that I didn’t realize were shutting for a purpose. In a metaphorical sense, I tried knocking harder, pushing and tugging and even climbing through the windows awaiting the ‘open door.’ But much to my surprise, the doors kept slamming shut. If you have ever experienced a domino effect where one thing leads to another….you can understand the frustration of multiple closed doors. However, I discovered something very intriguing throughout the process that I thought I might pass along.

There is power and purpose in closed doors. While everyone loves to rejoice when God opens doors, we forget that it takes just as much strength to close a door as it does to open one. In fact, the ‘no’s’ are just as valuable to us as the things that God does allow to come to pass. While the closed doors take longer to make sense of, don’t disregard God’s involvement in them! Proverbs 16:9 confirms, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” This means that when we walk towards the wrong doors in life, even if they seem ‘right,’ God has the final wisdom on the matter and loves us enough to stop the things that are wrong for us.

There is an old story that I was fascinated with as a child. Here is a short summary. There was a barbaric king who decided a criminal’s fate by allowing them to choose one and only one door-one of the doors promised new life, the other instant death. Here were the rules: The prisoner had a 50/50 shot to live or die because as he entered the arena, two doors awaited him that looked exactly the same. The only catch was, behind one door was a beautiful woman, behind the other a hungry tiger. I believe that this is how we sometimes see our life and God’s involvement in it. We choose the door we want, and if the results are rewarding – God was there. However,t if the results are unexpected, uncomfortable, unwanted….God is…  _____ (fill in the blank).

If you place your life in God’s hands, He is not the old king in the story that allows fate to take over and randomly decide which door opens by mere human chance. He already knows what is on the other side of each opportunity we are faced with. He is not a cruel Father that should allow us to choose the wrong path when we are faithfully pursing Him. So, instead of worrying about the ‘should-of, could-of moments’ that He may be stopping for a reason, trust that God sees things perfectly. He has a clear understanding of each event in our life and He sometimes, closes the doors for our good (because who knows, maybe a tiger is sitting behind it). Keep this one thing in mind – no matter how closed the door is, there is power and purpose in each and every closed door.