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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

When You Feel Like a Failure Following Your Dream; Here’s Hope

God will give us success; then we will arise and build.

I’d been praying Nehemiah 2:20 every single day for 3 months.  I’d come to dread this hot air prayer because it felt empty and pointless. God had not “given me success” in the area I most craved it and I certainly didn’t feel like I was building much of anything. (The details are in a guest post I shared here.)

I hoped by praying this verse, I might learn more about God’s definition of success. I needed a new perspective because I was failing by my own measure, unsuccessful in achieving a dream I thought God had put in my heart (a dream that seemed a nightmare at times).

I was frustrated and confused and frankly, my feelings were hurt. I felt like I had done my part but God wasn’t doing His.

One particular morning, I sat down with that cold lie and a hot cup of coffee.

My heart wasn’t really in it, but I prayed for the 100th time, “God, You will give us success, then we will arise and build.”

I reviewed my own definition and imagined how a person more righteous than me might respond, “God’s definition of success is not contained in numbers unless it’s how many people you’ve led to Jesus.”

I thought, “Let’s be frank; you can’t put that number in the bank.”

Then I thought about my conversations with people who are trying to follow their dreams. This is what we wrestle with, isn’t it?  We long to do what God has put in our hearts and still pay the mortgage and the orthodontist.

I sipped my coffee, and tried to convince myself, “God doesn’t look at success like we do. He looks at our hearts and our intentions and the effect we’re having in the spiritual realm.”

But that felt shallow and placating when the God I’ve come to trust is deep and inciting. So I said out loud, “I don’t buy it. Lord, I know you have more! Please teach me about success from your perspective.”

I felt nudged to read the verse again, so I did. “God will give us success, then we will arise and build.”

The question came, “Where are do you already have success?”

If I chose to humble myself (rather than pout and shout, “Nowhere!”), I could see many areas of my life that were successful by even my own terms.

As I made that list and gave thanks for it, I heard, “then you will arise and build.”

In that moment, I realized that God gives us success in one place, so we can arise and build in another. We don’t start out “successful” in that which we’re called to build. But we do start with prior blessings in numerous places that can be used as tools for erecting the new dream. God has been preparing us all along and often when we least suspected.

We can use this knowledge in two ways.

  1. We can identify and study the fruitful areas of our lives to see what clues they hold regarding what, exactly, we are called to arise and build.
  2. We can hold our list of successes next to the dream we are already dreaming, and see how they equip and support it.

I’m learning that, as we acquire success in a specific area, we are far from done.

Rather, our success is a signal that we are prepared to arise and build whatever God is calling us to next.

Where are you in this process?

  • Acknowledging your success and asking “What’s next?”
  • Or hammering away already?

Let us know on Facebook or email me.

Here’s to your success and arising and building,


photo by Julian Jagtenberg

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