I’ve spoken before of the devastating effects that a fear of failure can bring into our lives. It slows our decision making as we agonize over every possibility, dreading failure more than seeking success. It’s as if we spend our lives trudging through waist deep snow. Every step requires intense effort and no step brings any real joy or peace. In a collection of songs and poems in the Bible I stumbled across these words, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). This means that no matter how much wisdom, skill, or effort I devote to a task, it will not succeed if God does not want it to. Also, no amount of incompetence, doubt, or mistakes will hold back what God wants to accomplish through me.
My first thought when reading these words was, “Great! I just have to make sure I’m always doing what God wants and I will never fail!” At closer look, I don’t think that’s what the writer is leading us to in this passage. This approach will only cause me to adopt another obsession. We would spend our lives fearfully asking, “Does God want this? Is God behind that? Does God not want me to do this?” These questions are beautiful the first or second time they are asked of God, but they can become toxic the fifteenth and sixteenth. My obsession will still be on gaining success and avoiding failure. God’s greatest desire is not that we never fail, but that we would grow in our relational knowledge of Him. The perfect satisfaction for our soul is when God becomes our obsession, not what He will do for us, or what He might do to us, but accepting His passion to do life with us. The writer of this psalm is saying that God is so good that He will make sure that we fail in the exact spots where we need to fail. Also, no matter how much we struggle, He will allow us to succeed at the right times in the right places. God will use our failures and successes to allow us to know Him more, which is the only true source of hope and joy.