When You Feel Like a Failure

Karen Gerharter-Goodman
Karen Gerharter-Goodman

written by guest blogger, Karen Gerharter-Goodman

A few days ago, I received word that I may be forced to retire from the Navy, an organization I have faithfully served for almost 22 years. My first reaction was “I am not ready to retire, I have too much to offer, too much to still accomplish!” And then the feeling set in—I was a failure.

I failed to promote sooner. I failed to show just how good I can be at my job and all the tasks given me. Despite all the medals and ribbons showing excellence, despite the positive evaluations and accolades from fellow service-members, I felt like a complete failure. Along with that feeling came depression. I did the only thing I could do…cry, and cry out to God.

I’ve had this feeling at other times as well. I’ve had an incredible amount of success in my life, doing a great number of challenging tasks and jobs, yet so often I’ve felt like my entire life was a failure. Why? For me, it’s easier to correct a true wrong than to accept “things just didn’t work out.” By the grace of God, the depression doesn’t last more than a couple of days, but while it’s present, the desire to do anything goes completely away. After all, why should I try when all I’ll do is fail? It can be a sad cycle, and for those who’ve had clinical depression, it can be even worse.

It’s difficult to talk to others because they try to help me by saying how well I have done things, or how proud I should feel, etc. (but I don’t and that doesn’t help). I know people are trying to encourage me, but I don’t want someone to say: “Good job!” because I’ve heard that, yet I’m not moving forward in the area that I feel like a failure.

I think that Satan uses events like these to demoralize us. How wonderful for him when we’re immobilized by sadness and frustration, and so we’re not often not able to work good out for God’s kingdom.

How do Christians then work through this, or help someone handle a situation which they also feel like a failure? How do we overcome? Click To Tweet

First, I don’t try to hide or bury my feelings. Sitting down by myself, letting the tears come is cleansing in its own way. It allows me to take the next step, and begin asking questions:

1) How does God see me? Am I really a failure, or is it something else? Did I really fail either myself or God? Did I do less than my best, or am I trying to live up to an impossible standard? Am I interpreting this event by something other than God’s will for my life? Am I being prepared for something better or something that will bring more glory to God?

These are questions I don’t ask until I am ready, until the tears have cleared at least somewhat. During the time of tears, I simply let the Holy Spirit do my talking to God for me. Psalms tells me that I am being heard.

“For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.” (Psalm 86:5-7.)

By praying and reading the Bible, I find that God does not see me as a failure. During times like these, I come to Him as a child comes to her daddy, with arms held up, asking to be picked up and held close, to be comforted by His strength, warmth and love. I tell Him I don’t understand. Then I wait and listen.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:11-13.)

God spoke this to the Israelites as they were going to be exiled to Babylon. Talk about feeling like a failure! God gave them wonderful land, but they chose pieces of wood or stone idols over their living Creator. Yet God planned for their ultimate good, even though it meant a period of testing in the desert.

2) How do I handle this, the feeling of failure and accompanying sadness? I have to make an effort to turn each day over to God, and to talk to Him about my feelings. When I pray my first prayer of the day, I look at my hands, first clenched, then I open them with my palms facing up. It symbolizes my letting go of my worries and my control. It helps me to remember that God is in control, and it’s okay to let go of things, even things I believe I haven’t finished yet.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7.)

I know that God understands what I’m going through. Hebrews tells us that Jesus experienced what we experience, not by temptation, but emotions like sadness.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:15-16.)

Sometimes, I need this type of event because it allows me to remember that I am weak, human, and fallible, and that’s okay! I don’t like it when it happens, but just as a child receives unwanted and uncomfortable guidance to become the person they should, God uses times of trouble and distress to mold us into what He desires for us.

If you are to be there for someone, please offer your ear, your heart or your hugs. Click To Tweet Try to refrain from proffering compliments, even if you mean well, until they are in the frame of mind to hear them. You may be able to strengthen them by some of the following verses, but listening is always of greatest help.

“We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed.” (2 Cor. 4:9.)

“I know your works. Because you have limited strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name, look, I have placed before you an open door that no one is able to close.” (Rev. 3:8.)

“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.” (Lam. 3:22.)

3) Am I wrongly condemning myself? Romans 8 talks about God always being there for us, but many times we are not there for ourselves. We do a good job of condemning where there is no condemnation warranted. We don’t see the big picture of our life as it intertwines with God’s plan. It’s vital that the person who is feeling like a failure understand that because we’ve chosen to be on God’s side, He is with us always—nothing can take us from His grasp and His love, not even this time of supposed “failure.”

Finally when I’m ready to begin the battle again after feeling like a failure, I focus on these verses that focus on these truths – no condemnation, no separation from God and His love, we are conquerors through Him – and then His Word begins to melt away the feelings of failure, and then I’m able to help those who may be going through what I did.

God may not call us to be famous, or to change the world in a large way, but for each battle that we experience, for each session of weakness that we overcome by His strength, He can use us to help the next person, that their stormy season might be more easily navigated by an experienced sailor.

“I brought you from the ends of the earth and called you from its farthest corners. I said to you: You are My servant; I have chosen you and not rejected you.” (Isaiah 41:9.)


  1. Michelle December 30, 2015
    • LisaQAuthor December 30, 2015