This proverb humbles us by reminding us that the glory for our success does not belong to us but to God. When we do succeed in some endeavor in life, we can thank God rather than ourselves. And when we fail, rather than having an identity crisis, we can humbly submit to God in worship rather than chafing at the limits of our control.
Proverbs 21:31: The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
but the victory belongs to the LORD. (ESV)
“What if I fail?” This possibility is so frightening for some of us that it is nearly unthinkable. The shade of a notion of the possibility of failure can induce panic or something close to it. Failure is not unique in this regard. The same could be said of many other “what-if’s”.
And that is the purpose of this series. We will examine various “what-if” statements that often plague us by creating a vague anxiety which can haunt even our dreams.
In fact, I recently had just such a dream. I woke up this morning thinking I had, in fact, failed at something. I dreamed that half of a project I had turned in to be evaluated had received a failing grade and would have to be re-done. I remember doing damage control in my dream, trying to rationalize, trying to excuse myself, trying to re-read and read again the results to see if I could re-interpret them as something other than failure. What did failure mean? Does this mean I don’t belong in my job? Does this mean I’m not capable of what I thought I was? Have I been kidding myself about who I am? When I awoke, I felt sad and stressed. 15 minutes later, I realized it had been a dream… or a nightmare.
But so often it’s not a dream, and we never actually arrive at a clear point of failure. This post is not about the experience of failure per se but the fear of it.
What is success? And what is failure? Success may be defined as the fulfillment of a purpose or desire. We make a plan, the plan works, and we call that success. Failure as an experience is the opposite of success. We make a plan, the plan doesn’t work. We try something and it doesn’t work.
The proverb head at the head of this post can be very encouraging. It encourages us that God is the one in control over our successes, and that he receives all the glory for all our success. This is great news for those of us who believe that our success depends entirely on our own hard work. It doesn’t. There are far more factors at work in the outcomes of our investments and preparation than the dynamics we bring.
On the other hand, this proverb can be considered from a different angle. We do not control when we succeed and when we fail.