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Pointers along the way #208

When someone fails us
- Jacob Ninan

When someone fails to meet our expectations, disappoints our trust, brings grief to our hearts, frustrates our longings, shatters our hopes - how are we tempted to react? By keeping our distance, giving silence as a punishment, putting him/her on the shelf, looking for someone else? Perhaps sometimes we would be justified in such responses. Perhaps we have no other alternative because this is just not one such incident but a pattern. But how can we help him/her in such a situation?

How would Peter have reacted if after he had betrayed Jesus the Lord turned away from him, or looked the other way when Peter looked at Him? Probably, even if he did not go and commit suicide, he would have hated himself for the rest of his life and turned himself away from all contacts with other believers. But one look from the Lord made all the difference (Lk.22:61,62). Not only was Peter saved from discouragement, but he became the cause of encouragement to millions of others.

When Jesus said that He would never leave or forsake us did He mean also when we fail Him? (He.13:5). Of course! That is the time we need Him more than at other times. He is not a fair weather friend. He sticks closer than a brother (Pr.18:24). He is there with us when we are in deep mire and it looks as if He has forsaken us. He will never betray our trust in Him. Sometimes He may stand aside to see how much we can handle (2Ch.32:31). But even then He will not allow us to be tested beyond what we are able to bear (1Co.10:13). Especially when we have failed Him and it stands to reason that He must be disappointed with us He stands with us there. The knowledge that His love and loyalty to us are stronger than our failure breaks our heart in a good way. It is as if our eyes are opened to see Him in a clearer light of grace than we have ever done before. Our response then is to love Him more and to give ourselves to Him more willingly than ever before.

It is at such times that grace become amazing in our eyes. We ask, "How can God do this to me?" in a way that is very much contrary to the way that question is usually asked. The recognition and experience of this grace give us an entirely different picture of God, ourselves and other people. It melts our self-righteousness, self-sufficiency and holier-than-thou attitudes.

Shall we not do this for some of these other people who do much less to disappoint us than we do to the Lord? Our warm acceptance, our overlooking of disappointment and pain, and our offer of yet another chance can make all the difference to such persons. It is not a blind toleration of wrong, but a compassionate approach that gives hope to the one who has failed.

It is easier to learn this lesson through painful experience than through a Bible study. The next time we fail the Lord, let us look into His merciful eyes that beam out love and compassion, and draw strength. Then let us learn to show that same acceptance to others around us.