Your Failure, God’s Plan

How do you handle total failure?

I’m not talking about trying to fix your bathtub and instead setting it on fire. I’m not talking about a missed layup or forgetting an appointment. I mean big, life-altering failure.

The girl you were so interested in isn’t so interested in you. The ministry you lead and love gets shut down due to lack of participation. The promotion you wanted vaporizes. Your financial stability is turned upside down. Then what?

In his upcoming book Rescuing Ambition, Dave Harvey makes the following, helpful statement:

The divine perspective on human failure is this: Failure is ambition refused for a better plan.

At times God refuses our ambitions for marriage or ministry or kids or missions so that He can carry out His better plan. God allows us to fail so that He can put us on a better path. God redirects us onto a path that will bring Him more glory and us more joy than our little ambitions ever could.

I’m going to fail in my life. I want to remember that there is a better plan than my own.

Questions for discussion:

  • What is one way that you’ve seen God use your failure for His good?
  • What does it look like to honor God in the midst of failure?


  • Just ONE failure? Well, in 48 years I've had a few, but I think, in keeping with the post, I'd say my failure to ever get onto the mission field – overseas missions – muslim, unreached – that kind of thing, has turned me into a better pray – er than I was before, both for the lost and for brethren on the front lines and the persecuted church behind those lines. I have a LONG way to go in this pursuit of being a real firebrand in the prayer closet (really, a long, long, way!), but I see that my long years of longing, waiting, and basically being stalled due to circumstances, has been of God.

    Honouring God in the midst of this ongoing unsatisfied longing, looks like praising HIm for His goodness, love, patience and amazing grace in my life in spite of what I THOUGHT was the best plan – recognizing that I plan and He directs my steps, that his will is not thwarted by my doing or lack thereof. I have become a vocal worshipper of my mighty God Who is sovereign over all. Great post. thanks for this!

  • ibinike says:

    This is the best piece i’ve read all week and i am immensely grateful for thew short but sharp message. “Failure is ambition refused for a better plan”. That is deep. I am still meditating on it as in my short 33 years on earth, I have had a series of falures that are more major than minor -broken relationships that gave way to marrying a better man, miscarriages, job and ministry stagnation. Thank you for this awesome reminder.

  • Rebecca Allshouse says:

    Two words: grad school.

    I didn't flunk out or anything, but it's turned out to be the most fruitless thing I've done so far in life. But in the end, I'm much happier to be back here in town with a wonderful husband and fixing up a home that has so much meaning for me and my family. It's also kept me in a church where I know I can grow and find support as a Christian.

  • Vanessa Fernandez says:

    This is very encouraging – as a young couple, my husband and I feel slightly overwhelmed at all the decisions we are faced with – starting a family, changing careers, buying a house or renting, moving to another city, etc… We really have to fight against anxiety that we will make the wrong decision.

    Thanks for the reminder of God's love and control.

  • Debbie Smith Bensen says:

    God always uses failures for my good, because they teach me about my tendency to "think I know' something. God wants me to have no agenda of my own, but to come to Him each day..not with my own plans but to inquire after His. My failures have usually been when I think I know His plan and have rushed down it without consulting Him.
    Amid the failure , to honor Him, I humble myself….and wait on Him for the next steps. I am always learning this: Jas 4:14 "Whereas ye know not what shall be on the next day!"

  • Thanks for sharing that Lorraine. It's cool how God stops us from going one way (missions) to strengthen us in another way (prayer).

  • That's really cool Rebecca. And we sure are glad you're here at the church!

  • I can certainly relate to that anxiety! As a young family, we've had all kinds of decisions to make in the last year. It's been really cool to see how God has directed every step we take. He won't mess up!

  • Hmm, I think I might be the same way. I tend to have grand schemes for my life…yet those schemes aren't usually God's schemes. He's kind to let me fail at times…

  • TammyK says:

    Wow! Talk about God's plan for us! I'm typically not one to read blogs. I was sitting at home crying over the complete and utte failure of my career life. On an impulse & to distract myself, I decided to check out the blog for the first time. And there is that lovely word again: FAILURE. And, as if that were not enough, there are discussion questions–even one that puts "failure" and "good" in the same context. That one blew my mind for a second. I mean, Stephen, are you crazy or what?! There is no "good" in "failure"–everyone knows that!! Of course, as I continue reading, I'm stopped dead in the middle of my mental ranting by the question of what it looks like to honor God in the midst of failure.

    Uh…ummm…hmmmmm…..utter silence.

  • TammyK says:

    Part II: Maybe a better question is what SHOULD it look like? What it has looked like isn't pretty: a lot of tears, anger, lashing out. I need a new perspective, a divine perspective. In the midst of my failure I need to honor my Heavenly Father by being thankful for the gifts, the education, and the experiences with which He has blessed me. I need to relinquish control over my life. Let's face it, I've been completely out of control. I need to pray for peace, patience, and contentment. AND I need to wholeheartedly trust in Him for…well, for everything. And there is the "good" in my "failure"—God because there is none good but Him. Thanks for the reality check!

  • I'm glad that God led you to this article! Keep pressing into God in the midst of this challenging time. He really does lead us through failure onto good paths!

  • R Allshouse says:

    P.S. as to your tweet about humor–go old school. Check out Bill Cosby and Victor Borge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>