Nov 4, 2020, 1:40 PM
Isn’t it amazing that with hindsight we can boast that with age we have gathered a lot of experience which have boosted our immune mechanism to imminent dangers and head-on collision with failure? For every one of us it has been a long journey building up such confidence to arrive at where we stand currently.
Every normal human being in his or her right mind learns from his or her own mistakes and sometimes is privileged to learn from the mistakes of others. Our failures are a sure measurement of a person’s mental growth otherwise we cannot claim to have matured. One common example is when a child gets his or her fingers burnt attempting to play with fire. From that bitter experience no one will have to tell him or her that fire is not a suitable playmate. We have all gained that experience firsthand. That unpleasant feeling left an indelible mark in our brains and to all intents and purposes served as a teacher. Not for the world would that child ever get close to fire again.
All through life our experiences are intended to teach us lessons. For those who think themselves wiser by half -- living on the principle of seeing is believing – the sad outcome of ignoring valuable advice given by our parents or other elders is that we could have spared ourselves the pain, the grief or the embarrassment over the wrong choices we have made, if we had only listened.
Unfortunately, one must admit there are instances when there are no second chances or the opportunity to learn from our mistakes because the end result is fatal. Those who make such encounters never live to repeat the experience.
Father Abraham was one such character who learnt from his mistakes and the experience became highly beneficial to him.
The first mistake that Abraham made was when he took his nephew Lot with him when God called him out of Haran. “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go the land that I will show you .... Abraham left, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him.” (Genesis 12:1, 4) It was very considerate of Abraham to have taken Lot with him. Later however they had to go their separate ways.
After a time Lot became rich with flocks, herds and tents under Abraham’s wings and ‘the land could not support them while they stayed together.’ Besides, their herdsmen were beginning to quarrel. So Abraham told Lot “Let’s not have any quarrel between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. ... let’s part company.” (Genesis 13:5, 8) Then Abraham requested him to choose the chunk of land he wanted. Lot chose the plushest land. His error was that he should have let Abraham choose first but that is how young people react – me first, not noblesse oblige.
Lot forgot that he was being accommodated and had become too big for his shoes. However, he chose the well-watered plain of the Jordan. That was the beginning of his downfall because his choice fell within the zone called Sodom and Gomorrah which God would destroy for their immorality. As a result, he lost all his possessions. He left the twin cities empty-handed.
The second error that Abraham committed was to have listened to Sarah, his wife, who was barren and proposed her Egyptian maidservant, Hagar, to her husband Abraham as a surrogate mother. Well that turned sour on him. The home became unbearable when the two women started quarrelling. Sarah complained and Abraham conceded when God gave him instructions to listen to Sarah who wanted Hagar to leave the house. Abraham came to his senses only after God cautioned him. “I am God Almighty, walk before me and be blameless.” (Genesis 17:1)
We have the tendency sometimes to think that our actions are sanctioned by God when we never consulted Him in the first instance. A good many times, we think we can run our affairs ourselves without having to consult or ask God’s directions. That is recipe for disaster.
Whatever the nature of our shortcomings, they were never meant to nail us down; they were not meant to be fatal either but to build us up. The beauty of the exercise is for us to rise again from the rubble victorious – rather than capitulate. “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of all kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2) The more we see our failures as tests, no sooner shall we shake off the dust and bounce back – no time to moan over a failure or mishap.
Life on the whole is replete with lessons to learn if we are to forge ahead. The more setbacks we have, the more we are building resistance and developing resilience to ward or shrug off future challenges.
Life can be tough at times, yet it is easy when we do not walk in our own strength but hand every step of the way, hand over our trials and tests to Jesus. We have serious limitations putting up a fight with the devil and his demons from whom all our problems hail. Whatever trials we go through let us bear in mind that they are temporary in nature; they shall pass. We will come out strong on the other side if we do not magnify them above the name of Jesus.
When we spend time speaking about our failures, the more they will take centre stage in our hearts. Satan’s strategy is to steal our joy; we should not let him. God never promised life would be ‘a bed of roses’ as we say in everyday parlance.
Jesus made the point when He told His disciples this: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
We all have our fair share of problems. How we face them matters a great deal if we are to get on in life. I am not proposing we do all in our strength. We must also learn to hand them over to Jesus and just wait for the outcome through constant prayer. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6)