I’ve been thinking about failure a lot lately, mainly because I’ve experienced a lot of it this year. So many of my plans haven’t worked out, despite what (I thought) were adequate, sensible, and well thought out plans.
You see, in my work at Amazon we had plans to launch several products by early 2020. But in late 2019, prior to the holidays, I started receiving word that our supply lines in China were being disrupted by some new, highly contagious disease spreading through the factories.
This was totally outside of our control. There were no other factories we could easily fall back to in the timelines we had (and even if there were, the virus would have hit those factories too).
Our budgets were toast. Our timelines completely blown up. In short, we failed. In these circumstances the leadership wants answers: what did we learn here? What could we have done differently? How could we have prevented this? What are the repercussions?
Luckily for me, in terms of the repercussions, Amazon can always delay the launch so long as it’s not too bad. (Which we did, and at least one of the products have since been announced, if not launched). But what if this had been a small business or a startup, with less margin for error? What if we were forced to lay off people due to this?
One learning that I can glean from my faith is that God uses our failures to His glory. In fact, some of our failures have more to do with His plan than they do with our obedience, or lack thereof.
I am thinking here of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Samson’s mother, Hannah, and Elizabeth. All of them had a good, Godly desire for children. Yet they were infertile for long periods of time, trying time and time again to accomplish the goal that they rightly believed God wanted them to achieve.
And yet for long periods of time they “failed”. It’s easy to see it that way, at least. But did they really fail? In a way, yes. They didn’t achieve what they were trying to. But in another way, no. They obeyed God even in the midst of a series of failures, and in that way, that means they didn’t fail at all.
God uses our weaknesses to show His strength. I suspect many in our community have had their businesses “fail” this year, for reasons not entirely their own. I suspect many in our community have “failed” at their job for reasons they weren’t entirely in control of, and may even have been laid off. I suspect many in our community have had family and friends fail, or experience failure, in this same way.
I’d like us to turn our faces upward, to see beyond the immediate failure, the way that the women I mentioned previously did. They didn’t fail. They were faithful. And God showed His strength through their obedience in the face of worldly failure.
In that way, they succeeded, and God was faithful to them as He promised. They used their failure, their weakness, to show God’s strength. And great things were accomplished through doing so.
Be bold. Be confident of victory. Just be cognizant of whose victory you’re seeking, whether in business or anything else. God will show His strength, and we can all be witnesses to it through our work.