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When You Fail

When You Fail

We all start with such optimism.

New year! New you!

Lose weight? Yes, please!

Read the Bible more? Yes, please!

Exercise every day? Yes, please!

Go to bed early and get up early? Yes, please!

New year! New you?

Not so much…

Just over three weeks in and I have failed. Failed a lot!

And, I bet you too.

Cheated on my diet? Check!

Too tired to read every day? Check!

Failed to go for a run before I start my work day? Check!

Stayed up too late watching Netflix? Check!

Just over three weeks in and I have failed. Failed a lot!

And, I bet you too.

As I have been processing my inability to keep even the most simple commitments of a New Year, I have come to many conclusions.

Normalize Failure

Although I failed at some of my new goals, most others did too. After all, the reason we make a new set of resolutions each year is because we failed to make the changes we wanted last year.

It is somewhat comforting to know that many of you are in the same boat as me. And, “we’re gonna need a bigger boat!”

In fact, our failure, isn’t unique – it’s pretty normal.

Millions of dollars are spent each year purchasing new “goal setting systems” that will increase the likelihood of permanent change. That’s money poorly spent. If a secret system worked, we’d all be using it!

In fact, studies show that less than 12% of all New Year’s resolutions are kept longer than 8 weeks.

Failure seems to be normal. That is comforting…I guess.

Forgive Quickly

Yet, feeling like a failure is very un-fun.

I am learning how to forgive myself when I don’t measure up. I have lofty, unfair, expectations about how much I am going to get done and how much change I am going to implement.

Lose some.

Win some.

But, more than anything, I forgive myself quickly for being…normal.

I find when I admit my own frailty, I actually find great strength.

And, find when I let others know about my own short comings, it not only builds my hope for a better tomorrow, but also theirs.

I find when I forgive myself quickly, I also have more grace to forgive others quickly.

Kid messes up? Forgive quickly, because I do too.

Someone is unkind to me? Forgive quickly, I have been there.

Some fool cuts me off on the highway? Forgive quickly, I just did it yesterday.

Forgive quickly, it might be the best resolution.

That said, there are two principles I am learning this year and I am trying to embrace:

  1. Create Rhythms, Not Goals

Goal #1: I am going to read the Bible every day for 30 minutes. Fail.

On the surface, that seems like such an attainable goal. But not really. I have failed at this goal for the last 20 years (no joke).

Instead of ambitious, unattainable goals, I am trying to create new rhythms. What if for the next seven days I tried to read Luke, chapter 1 five times. Well, that doesn’t seem overwhelming (I actually did last week).

This week we are on to chapter 2!

That isn’t a goal – that’s a rhythm. Finding ways to slowly shift how I appropriate time so that I am making lasting change.

Seven days in and it is working. Seems like a big victory that is going to be won in baby steps.

Try it! Instead of huge goals that lack specificity, make a small change this week (working out, eating better, reading a little more) and see if you can get the victory. If so, try to continue it next week.

Small changes, over time, have a big impact with lasting change.

  1. Understand Change More Deeply 

When we fail to keep our commitments, we expose something about our very nature. We are unable to change. Change, at least lasting change, is a Gospel-empowered set of goals.

I am reminded of Paul’s writing to the church in Ephesus, “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to [people].’” (Ephesians 4:6–8)

This ability to change is a gift. But, not one we actually have naturally. Our desire to change is because we are created in the image of a holy God Who wants us to be more like Him.

Because He gives us that desire, He also gives us the gifts necessary to change. We are captives who have been set free to be more like the One in whose image we are created.

The desire to change is natural. The ability to change is supernatural.

When we become more like Jesus by stewarding our bodies well, learning God’s Word more deeply, and expressing kindness in “unnatural” ways, it is a reflection of God’s good work in us and through us.

Forgive quickly. Trust Jesus to give you the gifts you need to change into his likeness.

And, yes, like you, I continue to pay for a gym membership that I rarely use. It’s okay – I hear that is pretty normal!

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Chris Lawson

Founder of, husband to Merri, father to Adam, Ellie, and Zachary, and executive pastor @reynoldachurch. Lives to make Jesus famous. He enjoys watching the Atlanta Braves and UNC basketball, as well as demeaning and insulting whatever sports teams you root for. He knows a disturbing amount about television and movies.

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