Faith & Insight: Confronting failure

I have met many people who are afraid to fail. I have also met people who are consumed with overcoming a failure. In each extreme, they don’t really long for redemption, but rather, all they want is an escape, a mindless diversion from the pain of failing. Rather than dealing with our pain or our problem, we long for a quick fix or some kind of escape plan.

In the Gospel of John, Chapter 21, we have this most intimate encounter between Peter and Jesus. Peter was in pain over what had happened between himself and Jesus. And so in response to this failure, John 21 tells us Peter returned to what he had always done, and that was to fish. And yet, as the waves beat against his boat, he caught nothing. He threw the net out, over and over again, trying to move beyond the failure and yet nothing happened. But then Jesus calls out to him from the shore and gives him instruction to change the way he’s fishing, and it works, and Peter can see now past his failure, remember his calling, and thus Peter is able to head towards the restoration he so desperately longs for. Safely back at shore now, it becomes just Jesus and Peter, and they address the failure.

What do you when you have failed? When you failed in task or job? When you have failed in relationship — like with a friend, a family member or a coworker? After being broken over the failure, perhaps crying until you’re numb or after the failure has been on an endless repeat mode in your mind, or once you have totally sabotaged yourself and labeled yourself the worst kinds of things, what have you done then?

We see in John 21 regardless the failure, Peter loved Jesus! And he was not timid or shy about declaring his love for Jesus, either. Peter had admitted to his failure, he had been forgiven, too, but now, in this moment in John 21:1-19, now he was being restored publicly by Jesus.

When we fail at being Christlike in our attitudes and actions, or when we fail at demonstrating the heart of God to the world around us, or when we fail in our relationships with others — what do we do? We have to be forgiven, and we must be restored. Peter had denied Jesus publicly, so Peter had to be restored publicly.

God longs to forgive and restore each one of us. He longs to bring to the surface the issues of your failure so true forgiveness and restoration can be applied to your life. And this is done, in such love and mercy, so you can use the pain and the redemption as a story that glorifies the Lord.

Turn over to the Lord your pain and failure. Seek his forgiveness and allow God to bring healing to your pain, to your shame, and to your failure so you no longer walk about in those things, but rather walk as one healed and restored by the grace of God. This will allow you, like it did Peter, to continue on in the Lord’s calling on your life. A calling to love him and to serve him without the pain of failure from the past holding you back.

And so with the words of Jesus in John 21:19, “follow me,” restoration from your failure can be complete. The pain or shame will be healed. When that rooster crowed in John 18:27, Jesus had to have noticed Peter’s tears of betrayal, of failure — Jesus had to know Peter longed for repentance. And Jesus knows your heart to move beyond your failure, to be healed and restored, and the Lord offers to you, with his deep and profound love and grace, he offers to you healing and restoration from your failure — just look to him, call upon him and he, God, who’s faithful, he will deliver you.

Nick Emery is the senior pastor at Good Shepherd Wesleyan Church. He can be reached at


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