Turning Setbacks Into Comebacks: What do you do when a setback feels like a failure?
Have you ever faced a setback in work, family, finances, or health that left you questioning if God really understood your pain? It’s easy to wonder how God can still be in control when everything around us feels out of control. In this message, we share insights on how to move forward when your setback feels like a failure. Find out how God responds when you’re ready to give up, and how he’s with you even when you can’t see His plan.
Something To Talk About:
This message is for those who occasionally feel like a failure. Whether you’ve truly failed―or you just feel like a failure―the experience can actually be a blessing if you remember the three points below:
- We overestimate our strengths: Peter had a moment of overestimating his strengths right before Christ died on a cross. He made a bold statement to Jesus: “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.” (Luke 22:33) But that macho attitude soon began to fizzle. Three times he was directly questioned about his allegiance to Jesus, and three times, he dismissed it altogether. It wasn’t until the rooster crowed like Jesus predicted that Peter realized that he had overestimated his devotion and faith. He also knew he had been too quick to speak. It can be easy to elevate our strengths. And it can be even easier to overestimate our faithfulness to God when relying on those strengths. That was the case with Peter. But this failure laid the groundwork for an incredible ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit.
- We fear the disapproval of others: Seeking approval, and the personal satisfaction that results, is not what Jesus condemns; it is seeking it in the wrong source. The misplaced desire for approval is why Jeremiah rebuked Israel: “The heavens are shocked at such a thing and shrink back in horror and dismay,” says the Lord. “For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me—the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!” (Jeremiah 2:12–13). Craving the approval of others is a cistern that cannot hold water. I think it is pretty obvious where our approval-seeking should be focused on. Not from man. Not from our spouse, boss, teacher, etc. The approval of God is what we really want and what we should work toward. Then we don’t care so much about other people’s opinions, because we know that as long as we have God’s approval, that’s all that matters. We get freed from trying to please men and become servants of God who live for an audience of one, God.
- We speak without thinking: Studies indicate that the average person speaks approximately 16,000 words a day. A better study would be determining how often we think before we speak. Peter is a prime example of speaking without thinking. When something needed to be said, Peter was usually the one to speak up. When something did not need to be said, Peter was usually the first to speak up. He was not only the first to speak up, but he was also the first to jump into action. Of course, the wise thing to do is to look before you jump! In typical Peter fashion, he blurted out words that went totally against Jesus’ mission. Rather than listening and learning from the Lord, Peter rebuked him. In Matthew’s account of this incident, Peter exclaims, “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22). But he was wrong. We need to think before we speak. Are our words good and helpful, gracious and kind? (Ephesians 4:29–32) When it comes to controlling our speech, it’s a lifelong work. Thankfully, “… God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”(Philippians 2:13)
- What has been your experience with failure in life? Can fear of failure be paralyzing and motivating? Why or why not?
- What is the difference between passive trust and active trust? How does an individual’s life demonstrate the presence of God?
- God continually lead the Israelites into situations over which they had no control. What areas of your life feel out of control? Where do you feel your control slipping? How can you lean into that experience?
- Rejection is a potent, painful feeling. Fear of rejection can be so powerful it can produce a constant sense of anxiety, i.e., do people like me, etc? And it can cause us to twist ourselves into something we aren’t, just to try to please people. Agree or disagree and why?
- Have you ever found yourself trying to get people’s approval? I’m sure we have all been in this position but is it only a problem when we go overboard and it becomes an obsession. Agree or disagree and why?
- The desire for the approval of others is a dangerous trap; agree or disagree and why?
- What do you think the difference is between being affected by people’s opinions or being influenced by their opinions?
- How do we go about thinking first and speaking later?
- Is it possible to change without first changing your thinking? Can you name some improvements in your life that do not first involve changed thinking?
- How could you use Philippians 4:8 to help discipline your mind to think before speaking?
- What is God showing you through this week’s discussion? Where do you need to trust him more? How are you going to do that?
- What are some specific areas of your life that you need to trust that God is in control?
Take one thing home with you:
Scripture is full of people who failed. Just a few of them are:
- Moses had to flee Egypt as a murderer and live in the desert for 40 years before God was able to teach him enough to use him (Exodus 1-3).
- Samson failed as a son, husband, and believer before he was able to defeat the Philistines with his last act (Judges 15-16).
- Peter denied Jesus three times right before he became the leader of the early church and won three thousand people to Christ on the Day of Pentecost (Matthew 26-27; Acts 1-2).
- Saul was a murderer and persecutor of Christians before he became the great apostle Paul (Acts 8-28).
We will fail. But in spite of our weaknesses and failures, we serve a heavenly Father that can teach us when we are wrong, pick us up when we fall, and push us forward when we fail.