It makes sense
IF God promised success, why do we experience failure? Yes, there are failures that are clearly of our own doing. But what about those who took the right steps and made the right moves, and yet failure hounds them? Are we not taught that if we “put God first” … or claim His promises… or tithe faithfully… or follow the Bible … God will shower us with blessing and success? Why do we still fail? Was it because we did not pray enough? Believe enough? Obey enough? How much is enough, anyway?
My heart goes out to those who scream in raw pain: “God had let me down!” “How can I trust God again?” “What use is God? I might as well become an atheist!” I ought to know. I have been on that road. But by the grace of God, He has taught me a few things. Allow me to share three of them based on the life of Caleb, a prominent character in the Old Testament.
You may remember that in the book of Exodus, the people of Israel were bitterly enslaved in Egypt. God had compassion on them and sent Moses to bring them out of Egypt and towards the Promised Land. Along the way, Moses sent twelve spies to survey that land. After forty days, the spies returned and made their report to the people. They affirmed that the Land was indeed a land of milk and honey.
Two of the twelve spies, Joshua and Caleb, urged the people to take possession of the Promised Land. But the other ten spies told the people that the land was inhabited by giants and riddled with fortresses. This made the Israelites quake with terror and clamor to double back to Egypt. Because of their rebellion, God decreed that for the next forty years, everyone in that generation will wander around and die in the desert -- except Joshua and Caleb.
Now put yourself in Caleb’s shoes. Wait a minute. You mean I am stuck with these people for the next forty years? That’s unfair! Why penalize me with them? But there he was. Caleb had to suffer through the consequences of his people’s rebellion.
Fast forward forty-five years, by then Caleb was 85 years old. We see Caleb making another valiant stand, this time before his fellow spy, Joshua, who had succeeded Moses as leader of Israel. He told Joshua, “I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day… but the LORD helping me, I will drive [the enemy] out just as he said.”
Wow! Caleb’s life was put on hold for four arduous decades (and among a doomed generation, no less). But we don’t see any hint of resentment in his speech to Joshua. He lost none of his spunk. He still clung to God’s promise of that hill country. He trusted God to give him victory against all human odds. We are given the happy ending that Caleb occupied the territory he had asked for.
Events don’t turn out the way we want them to be. People, even those whom we thought are our friends, oppose us. Sometimes, it seems that even God has forgotten us. But like Caleb, we need to persevere in hope, faith and energy. Time and again, I read of authors, athletes and actors who dispel their reputations of being an “overnight success” and pointed out the years of toiling in obscurity and honing their craft.
It is said that Thomas Edison failed 100,000 times before perfecting the first light bulb. Yes, by all means, trust God. Pray for success. Obey His word. But add to that the virtue of perseverance. If God has put a dream in your heart, keep that dream alive and keep working until that dream is fulfilled. Until, at last, God in His perfect timing and gracious wisdom, ushers us to our own Promised Land. Perseverance is the best answer to the puzzle of failure.
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