Waging War With Failure


Approval is a nasty little bugger.

Hunting in the North Idaho wilderness for elk has painted and built a significant part of my life. Often on those hunts, I would find myself doing less hunting and more talking with God and close friends. This day would be one of those days.

We found a small opening that overlooked a huge canyon. A log, seemingly placed by God Himself, sat there for us to rest upon, gaze at His creation and process life. In the few weeks leading up to this trip, one of my close friends had been struggling with feeling like he could never measure up. As we sat and looked over God’s awesome creation, listening for elk to sound off with their majestic bugles, we processed life. I fiddled with an old pinecone that had endured several winters as I empathized with my friend.

He and I had worked together for several years, and our journey through ministry life had drawn us together as great friends. Sitting there, staring off at some distant ridge, he opened up to me and shared what he felt was continually gripping his soul. For much of his life, he had been waging war with an overwhelming sense of failure. He felt that no matter his effort, he could never measure up.

As my friend was talking, I immediately had this mental image of another great friend of mine. He had been a state champion high jumper in high school. I remember, as I trained for throwing shot put and discus, he would be working just as hard at improving his high jump. One night, after many of the other guys had hit the locker room, he and I were putting in some extra practice. I paused my own work out to admire his dedication. Over and over, I noticed he would set the bar higher than he could ever jump. Brian would drive high into the air, back arching to make it over the bar. Time after time, he would strike the bar on his way up, never even close to clearing it. I couldn’t take it any longer. I had to know. Finally, I asked him, “Brian, why in the world do you set that bar so high?” Panting, and dripping with sweat, he looked back at me and said, “Because, it makes me push harder.”

As I contemplated my hunting partner’s struggles in his journey with Christ, the memory of Brian came to mind. We often make the mistake of believing that our Christian walk is like the high jump event. We believe the lie that God has set the bar, and we are convinced that God has some expectation of us to perform at this impossible level. So, day after day, we fail, hitting the bar of “God’s Approval.” The twisted belief that once we give our life to Christ, we have to earn His love, is never what God intended. He doesn’t expect us to be some super spiritual high jumper.

Actually, I have come to learn that my “walk” is actually much more of a “sit.” The Lord wants us to pull up a log, sit, look at His creation and just enjoy Him.   The cross of Christ has already demonstrated His approval of us once and for all.






  1. I was just reading Habakkuk where he says he will wait patiently to see the destruction of the invaders. I keep asking what I need to be doing in these times. The answer might be simple. Not much.


  2. ….I don’t struggle with seeing God as setting the bar too high, what I do struggle with is getting the approval of man and that has been a long on going struggle.


  3. Thanks for the comments! Love the discussion. Linda, waiting on God has been the most rewarding/painful/loving/frustrating thing I have ever been through in my 15 years of ministry. Wow, is it hard. Now though I am learning principles that are transforming my walk with Him. He really truly does speak in a very soft still quite voice.


  4. Thank you for sharing this, Brandon. ” The cross of Christ has demonstrated His approval of me one and for all.”….powerful Truth encouraged my heart.


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