When I was fifteen, I started doing ground fighting. Going into class my first day I had all sorts of expectations for what I would start with. Some of it was recklessly optimistic. There were all sorts of ideas that I would be a natural and could get straight to walloping people in fights and maybe coming away with one or two impressive-looking wounds and bruises.
To my surprise, the first thing I was taught had absolutely nothing to do with any actual fighting. Instead, all the new students were told we would first be learning to fall. Poof. There went all my ideas of MMA genius. It all seemed so counterintuitive until the instructor gave us an explanation.
As he put it, learning to fall safely was critical to fighting well. To fall incorrectly was to expose oneself to injury. An injured person always fights at a disadvantage. More than that, falling poorly meant someone could capitalize on your disorientation. All of that added up to one idea: The person who knows how to fall properly keeps their chances in a fight.
Unsurprisingly, and given how regularly life can feel like an all-out brawl, the concept of knowing how to fall well translates directly to the hardships we face in life.
In life, you are going to fail.
It’s guaranteed. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but one day you will absolutely fail. It will be spectacular. It will hurt. It will make you want to give up on all sorts of dreams and goals. It’s not a matter of if you will fail, but when. The sooner you accept it, the faster you will be able to handle it when it comes.
We have to learn how to survive failure because our future depends on it. The more we learn to handle it, the better we are able to come back from it without guilt, regret, or time lost.
If you want to learn how to get back up quickly, you’d best start with learning to fall well.
Who you are after failure matters a whole lot more than who you were before it. If I’ve learned one thing from failure, defeat, and loss, it’s this. People will listen to what you have to say about God when things are going your way. But they will make their decisions about him by what you say about God when you have nothing. God knows this, and He is able to use that to his glory if we’re willing to be part of the story and set our own needs for self-importance and reliance aside.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Our failings don’t slow down God’s plan. He has them covered. He’s bigger than them. In fact, he’s so much bigger than them that he’s able to adapt them into lessons for us. He not only overcomes our failures, he uses them to shape us and help us grow into something better.
“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
And yes, even with the redemption of our failures, they will still hurt. Just because we know how to recover from failure doesn’t suddenly make the process enjoyable, just worth it. And we can never forget that we have excellent company on this very subject. There’s a host of extraordinary figures from the Bible who we know and admire for their successes. Sometimes, though, we forget to acknowledge just how many of them only met with success after recovering from monumental failures.
Paul persecuted hordes of Christians. Peter denied Christ. David gave in to Lust. Moses committed murder in the heat of a moment. Abraham and Sarah tried to make a family outside of trusting God. The list goes on and on and on, but every single one of those stories ends with God bringing these people through to extraordinary purpose. He was not thrown by their failures and he won’t be thrown by yours.
So what do we do? We learn to recognize failure for what it is and that it’s not the end. We understand how much it will hurt and acknowledge that the road back will not be a pleasant one. We get out of our own way and remember that God can use our falls too. We pick ourselves up, and we try to start again and do just a little bit better than the time before. That’s how you fall and stay in the fight.
Learn to fall well and see how quickly you learn to get back up.
Let’s find some joy,