Home > Christianity, grace, Spiritual Growth > God’s perspective on mistakes, failures and missed opportunities -video link added

God’s perspective on mistakes, failures and missed opportunities -video link added

I was talking with a friend recently who told me of a chance she missed to avoid a whole lot of woe that has since befallen her. She felt that if she had only been stronger or wiser back then, her life would have taken a different and better course. There was a grim sense of having missed God, that now she was on her own, left to her own meager devices to solve her escalating problems and make something of her life.

I’m no stranger to feeling that way myself. Somewhere deep in the bowels of this blog I have shared how my first church rapidly went from being “on fire for God” to being just plain “on fire”, due to leadership failure. The devastation to the church was immense, but even worse was my own personal loss. I lost faith in man, in church, in myself, and ultimately even in God. I did transfer to another church, and was a very active contributor there, but my heart was no longer fully sold out for God. When serious difficulties arose in the new church, I stopped attending there as well. I had become a spiritual dropout. 1

Satan uses our mistakes, failures and missed opportunities as weapons against us, in an attempt to destroy our faith and effectiveness. For this reason, it is essential that we understand God’s perspective on these things, because His perspective is much better than ours.

We need to understand that nothing takes God by surprise. God exists outside of space and time. He is all-powerful and He knows everything – even the end before the beginning. Our trials, our failures, our falls, do not cause Him any worry. He knew they would happen, and He knows how they will end. And he also knows how to use them for our good, if we will let Him.

David Wilkerson points out that when the disciples encountered a brutal storm on the Sea of Galilee one night, it actually was Jesus who had caused their plight. Jesus had sent the disciples ahead in the boat, and then He had gone up to a mountain to pray in solitude. Surely in prayer the Son of God knew exactly what was going on on the sea below, and was in complete control of the situation even from his mountain overlook. But he let them go into the storm, and then at the right moment He showed up and calmed the sea.

As I get better perspective on my own life, I’m beginning to see that God does indeed work all things for good for those who love Him – and that He allows things to befall us in order to accomplish deep things that would not occur were we to live our lives on a smooth “business-as-usual” basis. our failings are not inherently good things, but God can and will use them for His purposes if we will turn to Him in faith.

In my case, because of the call to leadership on me, and my monumental ill-preparedness for it, I needed to experience the failing of the church. I needed to learn not to trust pastors, religious fads, man’s approval, or my own abilities. I needed a major lesson in trusting the Lord when things go wrong.

Jeremiah explains why: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.” Make no mistake, trials would not be trials if they simply were little intellectual exercises. They are designed to hit us where we live, and to cause us to give ourselves to the Lord in a very real way. That church trial nearly killed me, but I found it to be true in the Lord that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

That storm brought up a treasure trove of self-righteousness, unforgiveness and bitterness issues that were beneath the surface when the waters were calmer. But when the water got choppy, the issues became visible indeed. Thus the Lord used deep offense and betrayal to lead me to the crucifixion of my flesh, the only way the negative attitudes that were killing me could be removed. As the skilled master craftsman that He is, He creatively used evil to work good.

Oh, how painful it was to go through this process, and how long it took! But if I have one regret, it is not that the evil befell me, or that I had to go through the pain to be purged – the freedom and power that resulted is too precious for me ever to give them up. No, my one regret is that it took me so long to place TOTAL, UNCONDITIONAL TRUST in the Lord in the darkest hours of the trial, when nothing made sense. The Divine fellowship and spiritual growth that I missed! It is in the dark hours that our greatest opportunity for advancement is presented, and they are to be cherished.

The Lord has dealt with me exactly as was needed, including exercising infinite patience while I found my way back to Him, in order to bless me with His maximum blessing. He has used my weaknesses, my flaws, my lack, to guide me into situations where turning to Him was the only possible way out. And that is exactly what had to happen, for at the time I was not capable of doing better. Despite ourselves, He is going to perfect that which concerns us, and He uses our weaknesses to do it.

If you are racked by regret or remorse regarding past decisions, now is the time to put them to rest for good. Paul told the men of Athens: “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). He explained to Timothy, regarding his own violent past: “Formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief” ( 1Tim 1:13). And peppered throughout the New Testament (and even the Old) there is plenty of support for Paul’s assertion that ignorance mitigates culpability:

Sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. -Rom 5:13

These verses and others teach that God is categorically unconcerned with the failings of our past, except as He can use them to help build us and others up now. It is absolutely crucial that we stand on the Word in this matter, because satan wants to devour us.

We do not confess our sins in the manner of pagans who scourge their backs – as if they could even begin to pay for their own sins or prove their worthiness of God’s forgiveness. It took the holy Blood of the Son of God to redeem Creation. We could never earn our own salvation. We confess in simple childlike faith that He will forgive and cleanse, just as according to 1Jn 1.9.

The time is short, and opportunities are precious. God wants each one of us free and empowered to fully represent His Kingdom of grace, truth and love. Let’s get all our issues behind us, and in faith let’s press forward into the glorious destiny the Lord still has for us – for all of us.

1. John Bevere deals with this “cruise-a-matic” phenomenon, which he calls “spiritual vagabonds”, in his book The Bait of satan. While that book is a powerful warning about letting offense keep you from God’s purposes, it is seriously flawed in placing responsibility on the person offended to reconcile with an unrepentant authority figure).


Update, 7/8/10: I’m adding a link to a powerful video about a modern-day Mary Magdalene from The Stranger series. Here is Part One; you can cycle to the other two parts from there.

  1. January 19, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Thank you so much for this!

    • January 19, 2012 at 11:13 am

      You’re welcome, Mildred. And thank you for your encouragement.


  2. Sophy
    August 6, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    I’ve just been in utter melt-down. I’ve been trawling for some Biblical comfort and your post has given me peace that I couldn’t imagine was possible.
    Thank You, God for Your Peace that surpasses all understanding! Amen

    • August 6, 2016 at 1:42 pm

      Thank you, Sophy. Bless you.

  3. Simon L
    December 27, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    Hi Paul,

    At first, your post has given me a lot of hope to continue in my journey. Your piece saying that our mistakes and failures are a part of God’s plan is reassuring and it fit in well in my narrative. Because God sits outside of time and space he knows all along if you’re going to fail or not, meaning basically that if you fail your failures were meant to be, and it is a part of the plan God has for you because at some point in your life you need a failure to wake up so to speak. The problem starts when the perspective of faith comes in. James says that sin brings forth death, and people who waver do not receive anything from the Lord. Thus I see a contradiction in the principle evoked in your post. We are supposed to take our mistakes as a part of God’s plan which will ultimately serve us well, when in reality missing an opportunity in life because of lack of faith is not at all in God’s plan.

    • December 27, 2016 at 9:12 pm

      Hi Simon,

      Yes, being forgiven does not mean we should be passive or fatalistic about falling short. As Paul says in Romans 6.1, “God forbid”. But it does mean we should not keep carrying the weight of guilt or condemnation. Instead we should have faith. God promises to work all things for good, and that includes our mistakes. The only requirement to receiving that promise (Rom 8.28) is that we love the Lord. And if we love the Lord we will do all we can not to fall short.

  4. Dawn
    February 17, 2017 at 9:33 pm

    Thank you so much for this post it is really encouraging. I have been beating myself up over a missed opportunity that I feel could have potentially changed my life and I am struggling to get over it. I am 33 years old turning 34 this year. Never been married and don’t have any children. I have been trusting God for a husband for many years now but things would just not work out to an extent that I haven’t even been on a single date for years. Two days ago after my shift late in the evening I decided to go to the mall. There weren’t many people there and a guy approached me and he tried making conversation with me but I was in such a dull mood that I turned him away. He really tried talk to me but I was cold towards him that he gave up because I could see he was also shy. So we did not exchange numbers or names. Now I feel like I missed God as I actually did like the guy he was a decent man he looked and sounded like a good person and physically attractive too. I also don’t know how I responded to him the way I did. So now I feel like what if God leaves me in this situation for longer? It took years for me to get someone to even say hello to me now I blew it. There’s a lot of self condemnation and fear as now I am really terrified of being alone I can’t take it anymore . What if I missed my devine appointment with God will He still give me another chance but what if now it takes even longer will I be able to live with myself and all the regrets and what ifs and thinking had I been more welcoming and friendlier towards him maybe I wouldn’t be so miserable.

    • February 17, 2017 at 9:47 pm

      Hi Dawn,

      Thanks so much for your comment. You have really encouraged me.

      Funny, maybe I need to review my own article, because I’ve been getting hit hard lately myself in this area. We can beat ourselves up about mistakes, but satan also takes advantage of them and uses them to torment us. Sometimes, we can get into a negative rut where, I believe, we sort of put satan out of business. We get so down on ourselves he has nothing left to do.

      That is why I think the best strategy is to maintain a positive in-the-now attitude. Put the issues of the past and the worries of the present off to the side. Concentrate on what’s on our plate and perform our role with integrity. But most of all, work out what it means to be “accepted in the Beloved” and “the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus”. Everything stems from who we are in Him: our sense of worth and our attitude. And our attitude can open the doors God wants open for us.

      We are not in this alone. The Lord is with us. And if mistakes were made, the sovereign Ruler of the universe knows how to give second chances. So the crucial thing is to keep ourselves in the love and hope of the almighty God. We should rejoice in Him even when our circumstances would suggest otherwise. This will be a protection for us, and as faithful servants it will also keep the door open to our promotion.


      • Dawn
        February 18, 2017 at 4:02 am

        Thank you so much this really helps me a lot and it’s good for me to hear that God accepts me and He loves me because I have always struggled a lot believe it. I have always seen in Him an angry God who is sitting in his throne with a red pen subtracting points whenever I make a mistakes and leaving me all alone to suffer the concequences. I have been working very hard though to reverse that mentality because I and know it’s just lies from the devil and thank you for encouraging me. God bless you.

  5. whistling in the dark
    February 27, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Often when I hear messages on trials, its always in the context of someone else`s failure. Trials that befall the Christian through no fault of his own. Through innocent mistakes that though perhaps second best, involved no serious failure on the part of the individual. Same with messages about God`s sovereignty; it always seems to be in the context of stuff that happens to us through no fault of our own like tornados, the baby is born with a club foot or down`s syndrome, we lose our job, someone slanders and accuses us and we are urged to believe and accept that God is in control even when ìt doesn`t look like it.

    These messages are comforting and reassuring, but they still kind of leave out those of us who got into a mess because we were in control and we willfully pursued a sinful course of action or at least a very questionable or foolishly presumptuous one. Perhaps we were deceived and got out of control. Perhaps something just took over and before we knew it we were embroiled in something we couldn`t easily back out of . Is God still in control when we were in control if you know what I mean? Is God sovereign over even our failures and sinful choices in terms of getting us where we need to go? The verse where it says `I am convinced that no created thing can separate us from the love of God“, mentions many things. But does that include our failures as far as obedience goes? Are our failures in that area properly included in the term trials? Believe me I can relate to your friend at the beginning of the article very well.

    I realize also that there is the issue of perspective. Something may seem like a good direction to us because in the back of our mind and heart we have a vision of how we think it would turn out. Then it turns out very differently. Now what we ardently and unswervingly pursued turns out to be a real bummer and a dead end. There is also deception. That nasty way the enemy has of making a scorching desert in which nothing good dwells, look like a lovely oasis which to set up housekeeping. A mirage. But I think that it would be helpful to know that we cannot screw things up beyond repair and that God doesn`t let go of us even if we have temporarily let go of Him. Otherwise it all depends on my ability to keep it together, to maintain fealty and commitment, to never falter. If that were the case, Peter who denied Christ three times would have been royally hooped.

    • February 27, 2017 at 2:38 pm

      Hi whistling,

      That was a very thoughtful comment. I too can well relate to blowing it big time. I think you raise some particular questions that cannot be answered specifically, but we can come to general conclusions that give us enough to go on. When we really blow it, there may be consequences to deal with. We might just escape them, and hopefully we will, but sometimes there is going to be a cost to error.

      Where is God in that? AISI, He’s at Romans 8.28: working all things for our good. “All” in this case does mean all. If we are able to repent, we can come back to Him. We return to His love, and we feed on His faithfulness as it says in Ps 37. The degree of our innocence in making mistakes will determine how easy it will be to return to Him.

      Sin is real, mistakes are real. That is why it in critical that we seek the Lord with all our soul and strength. This is not a dress rehearsal.

      But at the same time, God is faithful. Paul tells us that even when we are not, He is. Jesus told us to approach God as our Father. A father sees his children making mistakes, but will never cast them off as long as their heart is still his. If they are in flagrant rebellion, he has no choice but to let them go their way. But even then the father of the Prodigal Son watched longingly for his son’s return.

      God is certainly no less than anything we can idealize about a human father. The only thing that is necessary is that we repent of whatever separates us. Then He will forgive and cleanse, as it says in 1Jn 1.9. Sometimes that cleansing process can be long and arduous, but He is with us in it as our Strength.

      Thanks for the comment.

  6. Rachel
    August 11, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    7 years after this being posted and I see it. I made a mistake two years ago that was the worst thing to happen to me in an already difficult life filled with pain. God set me on a new path and I finally had life….spiritual, material, financial, academic prosperity was all in my hands and I let it go over something minor. I know I missed His will for my life and missed the last chance on Earth for any of that. Lamentations 3:1-20 is the story of my life.

    I’ve planned suicide many times since then and wish I were brave enough to go through with it, because I want out. If not, I will be living with this until the day I die.

    • August 11, 2017 at 1:39 pm

      Hi Rachel. I’m sorry you’re in such pain. No matter what has happened, the Lord does not want you to suffer alone, without His comforting presence. Let the pain draw you to Him, not push Him away.
      The Bible talks about the “deceit” of riches. I have found that to be very true. That which the world trusts is little security. It can be taken away in a moment.
      I don’t know your circumstances, but I do know that the Lord would like you to trust Him in them. Can you get to that place? Can you thank Him for life, and for His goodness, and then stay in communion with Him? Many times that change of attitude alone is the beginning of manifest change. Many of the saints went through this – Joseph had many years of this curriculum. God never abandoned him as he went through the “division of soul and spirit” Heb 4.12 talks about. It isn’t a pleasant process at first, but it becomes so as faith arises, and it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness.
      I sincerely hope and pray you do not take your own life. Don’t give the devil a double victory. Turn it around and prove God’s faithfulness. What was meant for evil, God can use to bring life. The sooner you believe that, the sooner it can happen.
      May the Lord comfort you and make a way for you.

  7. Sheryl
    May 9, 2018 at 8:22 am

    Thank you for this insightful post. God worked your experience for good to the extent that it continues to encourage others more than eight years later. May He continue to bless your ministry in His name.

    • May 9, 2018 at 10:41 pm

      Thank you, Sheryl. This article, after the Hebrews 6 one on falling away, is the most clicked on this blog. I’m glad if it helps some people. The experience I mention here also has served as a benchmark for me. When the going gets tough, I remember the time I drifted away, and how the horror of it made me resolve never to do so again. Thank you again, and may the Lord bless.

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