It must have been very hard for Joseph Schooling when he failed to qualify for a place in the recent Olympic swim heats. As if it wasn’t bad enough for the former champion, he also came in last in his heat for the 100m butterfly.
Schooling’s performance has attracted many disparaging remarks. Some critics say they had expected it, while others say that he has disappointed his friends, family members, and fans. But I’m sure that the one who feels this most strongly must be—Joseph Schooling.
Being Singapore’s first Olympic gold medalist, the 26-year-old must have felt great pressure to bring home another medal. But this would have been a challenge, in any case. In the four years leading up to each Games, many young and budding athletes would be rising up to challenge the medal winners, who would now be four years older and would have to work even harder to fend younger, stronger contenders.
It’s always great to be a winner, or to be on the winning team. But in life, we can sometimes—or often—face setbacks.
This was certainly true of Jesus’ disciple, Peter. Starting out as a humble fisherman, he had been called into the rank of apostleship. Not only that, he was one of the three to be specially invited by Jesus to witness His transfiguration, and to be given the rare honour of being in the company of Moses and Elijah.
Yet, in the final hour leading to Jesus’ trial, Peter failed—big-time. Confronted by people who linked him to Jesus, he denied knowing his Lord no less than three times (Luke 22:54–60). At the critical point, fear for his life overcame his bold declaration that he would never leave his Master.
Peter’s failure, however, was foreknown by Jesus. The Lord had told the impetuous disciple that He had prayed for him, that his faith would not fail. But then Jesus had also added: “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32).
Jesus’ words made it clear that Peter would fail. But, He also gave the assurance that He would wait for his disciple to return. And when that happened, it would benefit not only Peter, but also the church.
There will be times when we, too, may fail like Peter or Joseph Schooling. We may feel that we have not lived up to our own expectations, or those of our family members and friends. But we can take heart that God can use our failures to strengthen our faith in Him. Setbacks can make us better and stronger, and help us to return to our mission and work with renewed confidence and commitment.
In allowing us to fail, God could be preparing us for something better, so that we can give Him all the honour and glory. Our failures in life do not define us. Our faith in Christ does.
Lord, in failure I know that You are always there, waiting for me to return to You. Thank You for this assurance, and help me to turn to You for strength and comfort, knowing that You can use my failure to comfort and strengthen others in turn.