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Why Kids Should Fail

A camper with paint

Failure is part of life, but is it part of God’s good plan for our lives? If so, how should we handle failure in a godly way? Walt’s words show us how to help our kids with failure.


God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble 

James 4:6


“You are going to fail this course!” These words were spoken to me by my Greek professor at seminary, and I couldn’t believe my ears. Failure simply could not be God’s will for my life. I explained to prof that we had three young sons and I needed to stick to my schedule, finish school as quickly as possible and get that job.

I told him how diligently I had studied, and I was just .4 from a passing grade. Surely he would let me slide into Greek 2.

What he said next made me angry. “Have you ever failed at anything you really set your mind to? For the rest of your life you will minister to people who have had marriages or businesses fail. Others who have experienced failure with health issues or broken relationships. How will you have compassion without truly experiencing failure yourself? You need to fail this course!”

We need to understand failure has an instructive purpose in our lives. When we fail at a project we should ask, “Why did I fail? What do I need to do differently?” In my case with Greek, the next time I took the class I would faithfully attend the tutorial sessions and seek study sessions with fellow students. I learned better in collaborative group settings where I felt free to ask questions without fearing embarrassment. Failure taught me how to be a better student, and the lessons learned allowed me to academically succeed and eventually pass proficiency exams in Greek, Hebrew, German, and French.

We need to experience failure for the redemptive purpose in our lives. Failure should lead to humility, and Scripture reminds us “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble (James 4:6).” We are forced to admit our automatic default towards self-sufficiency and independence when we fail and move towards dependence on God through prayer. Psalm 9:10 reminds us, “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never failed those who seek you.”

We need to believe failure has an eternal purpose, an important part of God’s plan for a watching world. How can something appearing to be such a mess then result in a “happy ending?” When Jesus came for his final week of life to Jerusalem the people cried out “Hosanna!” or “Save Now!” (Mark 11). Save us by establishing Your Kingdom. Save us from the Romans politically and militarily. Save us from the Pharisees and Sadducees religiously.

Jesus seemed to fail miserably at those tasks at His crucifixion – but He did succeed spectacularly at saving all who come to Him by faith. He saves us spiritually by providing a remedy for our sin sickness and adoption into God’s forever family.

For us individually, we must come to God admitting we have failed to meet His holy standard and we have sinned (Romans 3:23) in order to experience the “free gift of god, eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). God has bigger plans than my perceived “success” and desired “schedule.” Part of God’s plan for our lives is to be more conformed to the image and character of Christ (Romans 8:29).

“Parents, the confounding truth is we need to allow our kids to fail in order to help them learn to succeed in Christ!”

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