There are some things we just don’t like to think about. When we’ll die, squished cupcakes, embarrassing things we did when we were thirteen, and so on. Standing proudly on that list is the fear of coming up short.
We’re obsessed with doing our best work, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but with that comes the fear of coming up short. No one likes the idea of failure, but it comes with the territory. That’s part of what makes it so discomforting. It’s inevitable.
There will be a time in your life (if it hasn’t already come) where you do your absolute best and it’s still not enough. Your best effort, your blood, sweat, and tears, and it’s still not enough to pull out a victory. It’s absolutely heartbreaking. We humans are well equipped to handle a lot of truly difficult things and handle them well, but I’ve yet to see someone who wasn’t rattled by their best coming short of success.
We live in this cult of effort. “You can do anything you set your mind to!” we tell people, “Anything is possible if you try hard enough!”. No. It’s not. In today’s world, we’ve completely conflated the idea of “doing my best” with being unstoppable, but the two just aren’t the same. They aren’t. Think of how insane that would actually be if doing your best was enough to overcome any obstacle. People wouldn’t just be overcoming obstacles, they’d be defying the laws of science and nature as well, because “I’m doing my best!”. Your best effort is of absolute and vital importance, but it is not a guarantee of success.
I’m going to be 100% honest. I didn’t want to write this post. It was just more appealing to be lazy about it. As I said in the beginning, this stuff just isn’t much fun to think of, and I’m no exception to that. In writing this, I’ve had so many occasions come to mind where I did absolutely everything I possibly could to reach for my goals and still came up short and it hurt all over again. I had tried my best, and it still wasn’t enough. By all worldly standards. I had failed. If my life were a movie, this would have been the part to cry dramatically in the middle of a rainstorm. I did my best and didn’t make it.
So, what do you do when your best still isn’t enough?
And this is where the rubber meets the road. What are you supposed to do when your best isn’t enough? What’s left to do? Consider this, what did David do time and time again in the Psalms as he was hiding and running for his life? He brought his case before God time and time again in laments, yes, but there’s another common theme in the psalms: praise.
Many Psalms are written from a glorious position of praise. Phrases like “bless the Lord” and “Great is the Lord” are showered throughout his prayers and reflect a worshipful heart. David made conscious decisions to praise God despite his circumstances or shortcomings. He wasn’t praising God from a comfy palace couch surrounded by all the modern comforts of the day. David was writing psalms of lament and praise as he lived out one of the hardest chapters in his life. He’d gone from living in the palace as a close friend to royalty to running for his life in the wilderness. By worldly standards, the best efforts in his life had completely fallen short and yet David never lost his love for the Lord, his deliverer.
When your best falls short, it’s time to start praising.
This is where the real difficult work starts. Believe it or not, doing your best was the easy bit. Now it’s time for you to praise from a place of darkness. It’s easy to praise God when things are going your way, but it says a lot more about your character and faith how you praise when everything seems against you. Faith is comfortable in prosperity and success, but it’s grown in hardship. So start giving glory to God because people are watching to see how you handle what they view as defeat.
Praise, praise, and praise again until those people can’t help but ask what you have that they don’t and how you keep going when you seemingly have nothing left. You don’t have to lie about your circumstances and pretend everything is fine when it isn’t. God already knows how badly you’re hurting and can handle the honesty of your heartache. But mix faith in with your misery and praise God. Praise Him for the things you’ve seen him do up to this point, and praise him for the things you don’t yet understand. Praise, praise, praise.
Because here’s the thing. In a world that would have you believe you exercise total control of your life and circumstances you only truly have control over one thing: your attitude. You’re the only one who can decide how you feel about and approach something. You’re the one who decides if you act out in anger or love. The decision is 100% in your hands.
At the end of the day, your best is not the last thing you have to offer. Your attitude is the megaphone of your praise and it is a far better agent for God’s glory than any human effort. In the kingdom of God, your best is not the end of you, and that’s a very encouraging thought.
Let’s find some joy,