Can you be an obedient failure?

What if you’ve done everything you should and nothing turns out like you thought it would? You don’t even feel or think the way you thought you would after all the hard work.

You start to wonder if you’ve failed. {You sure feel like a failure. Discouraged, disheartened, tired.}

Can those two words be planted next to each other – obedient & failure? Is that even possible as one of God’s daughters?

I guess a better question is ‘How do you define FAIL?’ {We spend so much time focused on Success, we may not recognize Fail for a unique form of Success.}

fail [fayl] verb. To be unsuccessful. Unable to do something. Judge a student not good enough. Stop functioning or growing. Collapse financially. Let somebody down. Become weaker.

You want to be successful. . . as a woman, in your job, with a friend, at the ballpark, your children’s education, your future, even pursuing the Lord.  The holy motivation to be better, to grow, is a good one.

‘The first shall be last and the last shall be first’ is right and true, yet sometimes only feels good when you’re serving your local shelter during the holidays. Not when you’ve poured your sweat and heart into a project, a job, a person that you love and expectations weren’t met. Not even close.

So, of course, to be a failure means you don’t reach success.

But what does success really look like? For you, your family, your job? {You might want to spend some time answering this question. Your life will be transformed by the answer.} The fruit that you produce could depend on this answer.

Is success being recognized by those you respect, the ones that have influenced you? {Without the recognition, is that really failure?}

Is success having a long-awaited dream fulfilled? {What if the life-long journey was the real dream?}

Is success paying off your debt and feeling secure with money to spare in your account? {What if your life is more beautiful when you rely daily on the Lord for your every need?}

Is success even important? Maybe it is. {But what if it isn’t. . . and that’s what you’ve been spending all your energy towards? Only to find that crafty leprechaun stole your _____________________(fill in what your pot of gold is) at the end of that rainbow you’ve been chasing.}

I’ve come to learn loving obedience to the One I obey is far more important. Much more important than an outside label of success {or failure.}

We suffer and overcome side by side. Ambition is not condemned, but God has Kingdom ambition for us to serve others and to restore us.

And whether my fruit looks different than the next branch, isn’t as big, or doesnn’t yield a crop at all this month, I am connected to the Living Vine. Interwoven so deeply that success or failure of my love fruit is no longer up to me, but the Vine and the Gardner.

And the One we call the Vine will never judge us not good enough, but only strengthen us to continue to grow and provide the power to produce fruit and succeed in obedience.

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  1. 1

    From 2010 until the present I totally had to revamp my idea of what success was for me from a business standpoint. I did the same thing when I made the decision to become a stay at home wife and mom in 2003. I literally had to throw out everyone else’s ideas in order to really press into the picture God had for me. That meant that I saw a lot of failures in myself at the beginning because of what I used to measure success. Do I still fail? Yes. But I look at failure more as simply not being obedient to God. Nowadays, if I followed God and did all that He asked of me yet things didn’t work out perfectly, I just roll with it and trust that the outcome was what He intended.

  2. 3

    A sweet start to my day!

    I love what you said about looking at our fruit and comparing it what this one has and what that one does … and then coming back to the Vine!

    I want my obedience to be because I’m absolutely crazy in love with my Savior, not because I should or I’ll feel guilty or someone will be disappointed or what will people think …
    http://creeksideministries.blogspot.com/2008/09/from-pen-to-paper-obedience.html

  3. 4

    Stephanie — this is just what I needed to hear today. Success looks dramatically different depending on who you ask and where you look! I especially treasure this sentiment: “Interwoven so deeply that success or failure of my love fruit is no longer up to me, but the Vine and the Gardner.” Thank you!

  4. 6

    I just stumbled upon your website for the first time and this article is VERY encouraging. I’m so focused on success sometimes that it’s easy to forget even failure can be considered a success, depending on what you’ve learned. It’s all in the way you look at it.

    Thank you for adding a new perspective. :)

  5. 8

    Thanks for this today. Love this part especially:

    “I’ve come to learn loving obedience to the One I obey is far more important. Much more important than an outside label of success {or failure.}”

  6. 9

    Thank you. This is exactly what I needed a dose of this morning. Thank you!

  7. 10

    Oh my, so filled with gratitude for these words you speak here. These are good and important truths to wrestle with, and especially today for me. This, I believe, is something we should hear discussed, taught, and clearly laid out to digest in our hearts much more frequently. Your authenticity and realness are refreshing. Thank you for your willingness to walk through this with honesty.

  8. 12

    Wow… Thank you for this. I’m serious when I say it looks like you read my blog post yesterday here: http://onesewingmommie.blogspot.com/2012/06/how-to-not-be-failure.html and then wrote this post in response to it.

    Straight from God Himself… thank you for allowing Him to use you!

    ~Angel

  9. 13

    Thank you so much

  10. 14

    Success to me is getting back up after I fall down.

  11. 15

    In my personal life, I am feeling like quite a failure right now. According to the standards of the world, I have done everything “right.” However, I have failed time and time again because I have been disobedient to God. It’s showing up in my life BIG TIME. I finally realize that I can only be successful when I am obedient to God. That’s my only true measure of success.

    Thank you for this post. I especially liked the part where you point out that the dream we’re chasing might not be the prize. Instead, the journey is our success. How profound!

  12. 16
    Beth Williams says:

    I feel a like a slight failure at work–did want to work in a doctor’s office–now would not mind working somewhere doing medical coding. God seems to have different plans for me. I just have to trust that He knows what’s best for me.

    Wish I could come to work & live my life with more enthusiasm rather than dreading most days at the office!

  13. 17

    Man, a double whammy of “obediance” today.

    Fine, God. I’ve got the memo.

    Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord. Yes, Yes Lord.

  14. 18

    Very timely word – as I have been sitting here counting my “should have dones” of my day and feeling like I wasn’t accomplishing enough, I was (in my thoughts) perusing some blogs and THIS…wow! Thank you for being an instrument! I’m excited to put your button on my page ;)

  15. 21

    This post sums up about 10 years of my life, where we tried to walk in obedience (and I think we did) and everything seemed to crash and burn, over and over. I agree, it’s our faithfulness to be obedient and walk through those times well (in spite of the “failure”) that brings fruit in our lives that will remain even when the rough times have passed. Thank you for sharing this today!

  16. 22

    Why is it so easy to equate what we are worth by human standards or by what others think or even what we ourselves judge as successful?!

    Realizing our woth is measured only in our Father and then living that way-that’s what I want!

  17. 23

    Wow. wow. wow…

    How did you know? HOW, how did you know that the whisper of these words unlocked a tiny prison door? The dark dungeon of fear that I’ve been denying I feel. Actually, I’ve been quite open about this subject in general and what role it has played in my life.

    It’s just that…I was walking away from it. I was “past that trigger”. I “know” that life looks different in each person’s skin. I actually DO know that. But that doesn’t stop the twinge of too many opinions in my head when I look in the mirror. At my thin, thin skin.

    Stephanie…I don’t even know how to convey to you how truly prophetic and sage your words are. They are speaking to a soul way down in Texas. Into a daughter to had a small but effective timing bomb delivered to her front door and she is scrambling to put the pieces of a fragmented shelter into whatever the new structure is supposed to look like.
    How do you construct without blueprints? No one tells you that.

    Thank you for this post. Your words brought back hearing to my ringing ears. Truth. Through the smoke and dust. Bringing back to sight the real.

  18. 24

    Wow, Stephanie….thank you so much for this beautiful post! This is exactly what I needed to hear today!! It can be so hard to relax when we feel we’re not being as “successful” as we should be, but this post provides wonderful motivation to rest and redefine success. Thank you so much! Blessings!

  19. 25

    I’m not feeling successful something’s are happening that are out of my control, but I’m learning, I’m trying to trust in the one who is always in control.

  20. 26

    Stephanie – everytime you post something new it’s always like you are reading my mind!!!! I love the part where you write “Is success even important? Maybe it is. {But what if it isn’t. . .” Over time I have been working on learning to let go of the importance of success and just live – try to live in a way that glorifies God. I have also been reviewing my “dreams” list and crossing out things on that list that are all about me. If I can’t state how achieving that dream will glorify God…then it’s being scratched off. And some days I do feel like success is not important.

    I also love the part about “whether my fruit looks different than the next branch, isn’t as big, or doesnn’t yield a crop at all this month, I am connected to the Living Vine. Interwoven so deeply that success or failure of my love fruit is no longer up to me, but the Vine and the Gardner.” Outside of my full time job, I have a part-time direct sales business. I struggle each month with my fruit looking different than someone else’s or some months I don’t yield a crop at all. That’s becuase I keep in close contact with others that are doing the job on a full time basis and the corporate office is always pushing to make more sales, book more parties, and bring in new consultants. I need to learn to let go of comparing my fruit to others and just remember that regardless of it all I remain connected to the Living Vine. It should only matter to him.

    Thank you so much for sharing your gifts with me! Blessings!

  21. 27

    Thanks so much for this article. God has shown me recently that the measure of success in the earthly realm can be far different than what it is in heaven. God loves it when we take risks, love with all that we can, forgive, and walk by faith. There are many who may feel they have failed only to see in heaven they succeeded. Once again thanks. :)

  22. 28

    Funny word, failure. We tend to judge everything that misses the mark according to expectations: ours, others, or Gods. The times I have whined to God in deep sorrow for my failings have grown beyond my ability to number them.

    “Lord, I know this was from You – I did it – I failed at it – I am a miserable wretch! Remember way back in 2001, when You said, ‘Write a book’, so I did? I am yet to see it on the New York Times best seller list. Your book would have been #1 on that list! No disrespect, but, why didn’t You just write it Yourself? I mean really.”

    “Are you finished, Linda?”

    “Um (a Job moment), yes, sorry.”

    “I’m not interested in how the world views your work. I am ONLY interested in how you trust and obey Me. And, actually, I thought the book was perfect. Your story of surrendering to Me was beautiful. Okay there were a few typos. But, the part about ‘giving birth”? I’m still laughing at that one. Those whose hands I have put it into have loved it. So, will you please quit your whining!?”

    When we are obsessed with success and failure, faith and God’s grace can simply become roadblocks to our next challenge.

    Daily I read these magnificent words from Thomas Merton to remind me of God’s call for me to trust and obey Him:

    “My Lord God I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
    But I believe that my desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.

    Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

  23. 29

    Your comment…”Is success paying off your debt and feeling secure with money to spare in your account? {What if your life is more beautiful when you rely daily on the Lord for your every need?}” was perfect for me today ! My husband and I are obeying God’s nudge and moving 16 hours away — downsizing to a 800 sq. ft. home in the inner city , on purpose — I thought — Hey! God’s going to bless b/c we’re doing such a cool thing for His Kingdom and we’ll pay off all our debt and spend our $ on the poor and needy , etc. — Reality : our current house hasn’t sold and we’re strapped and maxed out financially. We’re still following God’s lead and moving anyway– and still loving people and sharing grace … but having to depend on our daily bread instead of being financially “set” like we thought ! Ughhh… the Picture looked a little different when we talked this out ;-) Thanks for reminding me that God’s success stories look very different from branch to branch ! We’re living it out !

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