Lord, why do I fall so short?

Facing facts about temptation and sin can stir up realities about failure. The Holy Spirit uses his Word to convict us so that we see our sin and confess it. It’s natural: we look at the Word; we look at ourselves. Gulp! Lord, why do I fall so short?

Here are some ways that you can help your students when they fail: 

1. The Lord Jesus Christ knows about our failure.

He told Peter, “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:32). The Lord knows how vulnerable we are, just as he knew the same about Peter. Turning to Christ for help puts into practice the gospel: Christ welcomes weak, failing sinners, including believers saved by grace. He knows them, and by his Spirit lives within them. Further, because Jesus Christ dwells within the believer, when students stumble and fall—and they will—their sin does not change God’s view of them. They are loved in Christ. He has paid for that sin and failure on the cross, and it
is forgiven.

2. Let them in on your failures. 

Your example will reassure them that they are normal—failure is an inevitable part of the Christian life. When you communicate how you’ve survived failure and even grown from it, you’ll be giving your teenagers much-needed hope.

3. Provide opportunities for how to deal with failures.

Focus on how God has helped them work through their failures and problems in the past. Point out God’s grace through the people God has brought into their lives who have encouraged them, shown them patience and mercy, and how they have then shown grace and mercy to others who are struggling.

4. Be quick to encourage and affirm your students when you see God’s grace at work in their lives. 

Be specific with words suitable to the situation, “Elizabeth, you know, I can see how God has really helped you to be thoughtful in caring for our children in the nursery.” Acknowledge an insightful question or answer. Thank a student who was patient, cooperative, or sensitive during a group activity, telling the teen that you see Christ reflected through him or her. Thank students for showing the love of Christ as they befriend visitors.

5. If there is failure, be quick to listen and slow to offer advice. 

For example, refrain from the knee-jerk response, “Aw … it’s not that bad.” In a larger sense, that statement may be true, but in the limited horizons of a teen’s world the failure is serious. Be ready to express empathy. The bigger the failure the bigger the crisis for them. Any failure (actually, anything that a teen sees as a problem) is a crisis to them. Discuss how they can prepare ahead of time to deal with failures and crises.

6. Remind them that God provides resources and strength in Christ for them to pick up and move forward.

The apostle Paul says he lives by faith. That means active reliance on Christ, living in him, drawing on his resources for help. Prayer, worship, the Word, godly counsel, and the example of mature believers help us live out what God has provided in Christ. He uses these appointed means—help is on the way! “I can do all things through him [Christ] who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

7. Pray with your students and let them know that you will continue to pray for them.

Periodically check in with them. An email, text, or conversation reminds your students to persevere, and can help them realize that they are making progress.

8. Use your Bible when helping students with failure.

This is essential. Model the help that can be gleaned from God’s Word. The Bible portrays individuals and the whole of the people of God as those who struggle with sin; they wrestle with fears, discouragements, and failures. Abraham acted impatiently with Hagar, and lied about Sarah being his sister instead of his wife. Moses killed the Egyptian. Gideon wallowed with insecurity. David gave into lust, committed adultery, and killed to cover it up. Peter denied Christ—three times. Each of these believers knew the pain, guilt, and shame of failure. They often wanted to run away, hide, and lick their wounds.

To whom did these people in the Bible ultimately turn in order to find help? Psalm 73:26 is the guide: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Your role as leader is to point students to God himself, who is our refuge and only hope. David calls the Lord his rock, the place to go for strength. The Lord’s mercy is new every day; he remains constant—he will never leave us, never forsake us.

Christ is our hope. While it is true that failure lurks about, it does not determine who we are. God has made us his own by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are the church, the Lord’s people—the body of Christ. He has loved us and given himself for us. Tell your students that truth; tell them often. God forgives, he restores, and he helps. Failure indeed reminds us about our sin and weakness; it also can serve as a friend, turning us back to Christ.

How do you help your teens deal with failure?

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