Have you ever failed? What does God think when you do?


IVP Books, © 2011, 192 pages

How many of us have ever failed at something? In our fallen world, every one of us at some point in our lives has encountered and had to respond to failure. That failure might be in our professional lives or it may be personal, but we'll all experience the doubt, grief, loneliness and sometimes even hopelessness that accompany our missteps.

When we fail, however, what does God think about us—and our specific area of failure?

That's the question Steven R. Roy tackles in "What God Thinks When We Fail: Finding Grace and True Success."

Roy, who is an associate professor of pastoral theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill., prefaces the book by recounting his experience as a senior pastor in the Pacific Northwest. He entered a crisis in his leadership of the church when two elders abruptly announced their resignation, citing Roy's leadership and pastoral style.

Roy's crisis is not unlike many experienced by Christians each day. Crisis and failure have become even more difficult to tackle in our success-laden culture. Self-help books line the shelves of bookstores—including Christian ones—telling us how to succeed in our business, with our money, in our ministry and in our personal relationships.

Not experiencing success has almost become a character fault in some quarters.

Yet, in our fallen world, we will experience it, and our response to it will determine how we grow spiritually, emotionally and personally.

Roy argues that there are several theological responses to failure, what he calls a "Truth of Grace." He includes in these that not all failure is sinful, that all sinful failures are forgiven by God, that God is working to transform us, that failure will ultimately not define us as Christians and that no failure will "have the last word in our lives."

"It is impossible for us to go back in time and redo the past, such that our failures never existed," Roy writes. "But the good news is that God redeems them and transforms them and uses them for our eternal joy."

Roy writes in a conversational tone and uses many personal anecdotes from people who have experienced—or been transformed by—personal failure. While the book focuses mainly on those in ministry, the theological and personal lessons offered are helpful to all readers.

One of the book's most compelling sections is its last chapter: "Helping Others."

"If it is true that all of us will experience failure and that it's not a question of if but of when and how, then by extension this is true not only for ourselves but also for all those people God brings into our lives. And we want to help them cope."

Roy delves into several ways in which the reader can help people through their experience of failure, including through our presence as their friend, our life example, our prayers and our focus on them.

Rarely does a book have such broad readership potential—for we all fail and will ultimately fail again.  

"What God Thinks When We Fail" can be purchased at LifeWay Christian Stores or online.

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