What Should Be Our Response When We Fail God?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Failing to obey God is something that every Christian does, and repeatedly.  Every one of us sins, but how should we react when we sin, when we fail God?

Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft, in his book Prayer For Beginners, takes some lessons from Brother Lawrence’s little classic The Practice of the Presence of God.  Brother Lawrence says, “When I fail in my duty, I readily acknowledge it, saying ‘I am used to doing so; I shall never do otherwise if I am left to myself.’ If I fail not, then I give God thanks, acknowledging that the strength comes from Him” (Conversation 2).

When he considers Brother Lawrence’s advice, Kreeft says:

You may think this sounds too easy, too cavalier, almost indifferent. But why?  To be “sensible” of our faults but not “discouraged” by them is not indifference, it is patience.  Not to be sensible of them, or not to confess them, is the road to pride.  But to be discouraged by them is the road to despair. . . . How can we attain this state, of being sensible of our faults but not discouraged by them?  By seeing our faults but also seeing farther than our faults; by framing our faults by our faith, which is not faith in ourselves but faith in God.  No fault, no sin, no failure can exhaust God’s power to forgive.

Kreeft then compares the way Satan wants us to think about our sins versus the way God wants us to think about our sins.

God wants us to worry about our sins before we sin; the devil wants us to worry after we sin. God wants us to feel free after we repent (for we really are free then); the devil wants us to feel free before we sin, as we are choosing to sin (for we really are not free then; the devil is a deceiver). The devil tempts us to cavalier pride before we sin and worrisome despair afterward, since pride and despair both separate us from God, and anything that separates us from God is the devil’s friend and our enemy, while anything that brings us closer to God is the devil’s enemy and our friend. But what is our friend at one time can be our enemy at another.

Kreeft concludes with these thoughts:

What our Heavenly Father wants us to do about our spiritual failures is like what our earthly father wants us to do about our earthly failures.  When we fall off the horse, or the bike, or the high road to Heaven, we must simply climb on again as soon as we are aware of the fact that we have fallen off, rather than sitting there stewing in self-pity or self-hatred.

And remember to thank God for the awareness of the fact that you have fallen off the “horse” of awareness of his presence, for that, too, is his gift, not your achievement.  If he did not give you the grace to notice that you have forgotten his grace, you would not only forget his grace, but you would also forget that you had forgotten his grace. And then your state would be without hope.