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30th August: Failure is not Final

Jesus said: 'Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren'. Luke 22:31-32

A sense of failure can be devastating. Probably all of us experience it sometimes -- in personal relationships with people, in service to Christ and not least in the demanding round of medical life. Does it tend to get you down when it happens? Then remember what happened to Simon Peter, and take heart. be still and listen. Failure is not final.

Peter did fail, wildly and miserably. He openly denied his Master, contrary to all his boasting. And he repented bitterly. What agony of soul he went through as he saw Jesus crucified and laid in the tomb we cannot know. But despite everything, we can scarcely doubt that deep down (as Jesus had prayed) his faith had not failed. Then he saw the empty tomb, and later the Lord appeared to him (Lk 24:34). Though we know nothing about that meeting, hope must then have come -- hope to bring a glow to the embers of faith. With Jesus' call to love, made three times corresponding to Peter's three denials (Jn 21:15-17), faith burst into flame.

Many kinds of failure come into our lives. A medical failure, a tragic mistake, misunderstood advice, misjudged surgery, a lapse through inexperience, weariness or stress (each of us can fill in how own detail) -- can knock a doctor very hard. As Christians we may see it as dishonouring our Lord (and so failing him just as much, though in a different way, as Peter did) and betraying the trust of people. We cannot, indeed must not, push it aside. It must be faced. Anything must be done that can be done to pick up the pieces. Then we must go on -- humbly certainly, but wiser, more tolerant of the failures of others and better equipped to help them when they need it. We should have learnt by then that, as Jesus so gently taught Peter, failure is not final.

Nay but thou knowest us, Lord Christ, thou knowest,
Well thou rememberest our feeble frame,
Thou canst conceive our highest and our lowest,
Pulses of nobleness and aches of shame.

F W H Meyer, St Paul

Further reading: Lk 22:31-34, 54-62. Jn 21:15-19.


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