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Seeds of the Kingdom

Fear of Failure

by Sue Sainsbury

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.”

2 Chronicles 20:12, NIV

I’ve been pondering recently what life feels like when we live with a constant, nagging sense of a particular kind of fear: the fear of failure.

Fear is such a big topic and such a powerful reality in so many of our lives. This is true when very real physical dangers surround us. It can also be true though when we have life experiences in the past that make us fearful about the way we step into our lives today.

So, what about this specific fear of failing, of getting something wrong, of letting people down? It’s something that many people just battle with quietly, feeling stressed and inadequate and even ashamed when faced with situations they feel unable to fulfil.

I’ve been thinking about the times when I find myself not even starting something because I’m frightened – usually subconsciously – that I’m going to fail at it. Or when I notice myself instinctively running away from a request to ‘step up’ and do a job or be involved in something where I feel out of my depth. I think some of us might respond by trying to fill ourselves with (false) confidence and bravado. Or others of us charge forwards, overriding our nervousness, and trying to convince ourselves – and everyone around us – that we’re more than capable!

But being stifled by a fear of failure isn’t just in the area of work or responsibilities, we can also become afraid to step into new friendships or deeper relationships because we’ve been hurt before and future brokenness seems ‘inevitable’. We simply don’t want to feel that kind of pain again. And what about when we believe God’s asking us to do something and we are so convinced we’re going to fail at it, get it wrong, make a fool of ourselves, disappoint someone or even let God down … what then?

What do we do when the possibilities of failing and the very real consequences in our lives seem overwhelming? What do we do when we have no power to face what feels like a vast army attacking us, relentlessly, on a daily basis?

Someone asked me that question yesterday and this is what my heart responded: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

We need to be real with ourselves and acknowledge how the fear of failure limits our lives. Rather than pushing it away, denying it and even being ashamed of ourselves for feeling afraid, we need to bring the reality of what we feel to God (who knows anyway but loves to hear us tell Him). Maybe we may need to be honest with those around us.

This is about being real that we’re frightened to get into something that we don’t think we can fulfil or achieve or succeed in. It’s about saying, “We do not know what to do”.

But we also need the second half of that sentence: ‘… ‘but our eyes are on You’. We can then lean into God, acknowledge that we need Him, and not try to manage the fear ourselves, maybe by hiding and withdrawing, or by rising up in powerful self-determination. Because the truth is that we have a loving heavenly Father who knows exactly why we struggle and wants to help us find the freedom we need to step towards life in all its fullness.

Sue Sainsbury and her husband, John, have just begun a big, new adventure as part of the leadership team at Ellel Grange, where they are committed to living lives as disciples of Jesus and helping others on their journey with Him.

 

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