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How to Let Mistakes Steal Your Life

Photo courtesy of ©photodune.net

I hate messing up – especially when I let others down or hurt someone.

I’ll bet you do too.

Will we fail sometimes? Yes.

Will we disappoint others? Yes.

Will we hurt some people in the process? Yes.

Failure is common. How we respond to it is critical.


A Tale of Two Souls

The name Judas has become synonymous with betrayal. He was one of Jesus’ inner circle, one of the famed twelve. Jesus didn’t fit the mold of Messiah Judas was expecting. The end result was Judas sold Jesus into the hands of the authorities for thirty silver coins.

The next morning as Jesus was condemned to crucifixion, a wave of remorse swept over Judas. He returned the silver, throwing it into the Temple with disgust. Then he killed himself.

What happened?

Judas failed big-time. He felt remorseful, but allowed guilt to take over. He saw the enormity of his error and couldn’t imagine any redemption, any forgiveness large enough to cover it. He believed his sin was greater than God’s ability to deal with it (and with him).

Judas allowed his failure to define him. And it stole his life. 

As Judas’ drama was playing out, another of Jesus’ inner circle blew it. Peter was arguably the most passionate and closest of Christ’ disciples. When Jesus was taken captive, Peter followed at a distance. As he awaited the outcome of Jesus’ trial, several onlookers recognized him.

To save his own skin, three times Peter declared, “I don’t know the man!”  This from the disciple who pledged his willingness to die for Jesus a few hours earlier.

Another betrayal.

Remorse seized Peter as well. In his heart, he owned up to what he had done. He grieved, deeply. He re-engaged with the rest of the disciples. He went with John to see the empty tomb. He had conversations with Jesus after the resurrection. He became a bold, fearless leader in the early church.

Similar scenarios, two very different results. Peter launched from his failure into his mission. Judas ended his own life.

Yes, how we respond to failure is critical. It can change everything.


When You Mess Up…

  • Be remorseful, but don’t let it rule your heart. Let remorse propel you to action.
  • Own up. Tell yourself and God the truth. Confess to others if appropriate. Ask forgiveness.
  • Don’t let your mistakes define you. Only God can do that. Forgive yourself.
  • Don’t be arrogant, thinking your actions are more powerful than God’s ability to forgive and restore.
  • Make amends when you can, especially when it benefits the other party and your relationship.
  • Learn from your mess-ups. Use them to heal, grow, and engage in deeper relationship with God and others.

Dare to believe that God can turn anything around.


Question: How are you learning to use failure to propel you forward?

How to Be Unhappy in Two Easy Steps

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We write songs extolling it. We make blockbuster movies portraying it. We craft products and services that promise a little more of it. The Declaration of Independence affirms our right to pursue it.


One definition reads, “The mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions.” No wonder it’s popular. In the midst of an often chaotic world full of challenges, happiness sounds pretty good.

We long for it, yet it evades our grasp. From time to time, we snatch a bit as it flashes past. It feels so good. We want to hang on, but the next challenge bears down upon us and those wonderful feelings seem to evaporate into thin air.

I’m not sure happiness is what I’m after. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy feeling good, and I like pleasant emotions. But searching for something that appears so transient and fickle doesn’t exactly thrill me.

I’m hoping for something way beyond happiness.


Two Ways to Send Happiness Packing

Happiness is unstable enough, but we tend to make it impossible. If Dr. Depression could write a prescription to alleviate all symptoms of happiness, it might go something like this. How to be unhappy, in two easy steps:

1. Make it about you.

Believe the world is here to serve you. People owe you. You deserve such-and-such. Embrace entitlement. Let these thoughts run deep. Dwell on them. It’s a sure way to court disappointment and anger.

Blame others for what goes wrong, then project that out in the form of gossip. Find other miserable, entitled folks to commiserate with. Chew the fat and share your complaints. This keeps everyone stuck and the cycle of anger and frustration snowballing.

I wonder how deep this runs in me. I’ll bet I struggle with entitlement more than I realize. I’m not a good observer of myself, and need the help of others to know how I’m coming across. I need safe people I trust to speak truth into my life with compassion and grace.

2. Go it alone.

Do it yourself. Be stubborn and isolated. Be deceived that this is real strength. Become an island. If people are going to treat you this way, you don’t need them.

Withdraw. Trust no one. Self-medicate. Eat, drink, and do whatever you need to do to silence the pain. Hold the grudge. Fuel the fire of anger. Let it devour you from the inside out. Exercise control of people and situations to mask how out of control you feel. Hide.

This is another way of making it all about you. Your life, your plan, your way.

This is part of the plan of evil – to divide and conquer, to keep us apart, separate, and alone. We were created for connection, and we do life in teams: friends, families, marriages, workplaces, small groups, neighborhoods, churches.

I have a number of teams in my life. You do too. They make life rich and meaningful. We can’t heal, grow, and engage in God’s purpose without them.


The Dream of Many Coats

A few weeks ago, I had a dream. I saw myself, burdened and weighed down with many heavy coats. Jesus came up to me and smiled. He held out his hands. I tried to give him the coats, but it was like they were glued on.

“You must let me take them off,” he said.

I relaxed. He came to me and took the first one off, then the next. Other people appeared and helped Jesus remove more coats. The coats had names: fear, loneliness, hurt, financial worries, health concerns, relational challenges, etc.

Finally, Jesus and his helpers took off the last heavy coat. It was shame. I felt so light. Jesus smiled and began to run. I laughed and ran after him. Soon we were all running together at a blistering, inhuman pace. It was wonderful.

When we stopped, I wasn’t even winded. Then I noticed we were surrounded by more people, each of them isolated and alone, burdened with many coats.

I looked at Jesus. He smiled. “Come. We have work to do,” He said.


We Have Work to Do

Happiness is good, but contentment is great. I think of contentment as a deep sense of peace and okay-ness that flows from the conviction that God is good and can be trusted. Contentment never bows to circumstances, but lives above them. That’s powerful.

If you’re burdened today, take heart. The Burden Bearer is here. He has placed teams around you. Lean on Him, and them.

You aren’t alone.

Come, there is work to do.


Question: What’s the biggest roadblock to contentment for you?

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