Some time ago, I was at a meeting where I preached a sermon on disappointment. After the service, I was talking with a highly successful and well-known pastor. As we chatted, he said something that stopped me in my tracks. He said, “Man, I'm so disappointed with myself.” At first, I was speechless, then I said, “You are? Well then, is there any hope for the rest of us if you’ve had such success and yet you're disappointed with yourself?”
Later, while thinking about that conversation and the pastor’s startling revelation, I realized that he was just admitting to a struggle that we all have. Everyone makes mistakes, and every one of us fails on a regular basis. We try to hold ourselves to an impossibly high standard by thinking, “Oh, I can’t allow myself to fail. I can never stumble.”
Failure isn’t the problem, though. Proverbs says, “For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again…” (Proverbs 24:16, NKJV). It doesn't say he never stumbles; it says that he keeps on trying. We aren’t failures unless we stay down.
There will always be times when we let ourselves and others down and become frustrated. For example, when I come home in the evening, one of my goals is to take time and be present with my wife. But sometimes I come home, and by the time I get to bed, I realize that I didn't do that at all. I'm disappointed with myself, but I realize that is not evil. Rather, the evil – the defeat – is staying in that moment of failure. Instead, I can own it and use this self-awareness to drive me to God, toward real change.
I wish I had told my pastor friend, “It's okay to be disappointed with yourself; we humans constantly fall short of expectations.” The key is to be patient during those times of failure and let God use them for our benefit. It's a lifetime journey, but through the Spirit and the Word, God provides us with the encouragement and direction we need to finish strong.