Personal Growth

Feeling Like A Failure

by Zach Sparkman

black and white photo of man with head in hands

Do you ever feel like a failure in your parenting? It’s ok to admit it; I feel like a “dad-fail” sometimes myself. And from what other dads have told me, I’m not alone, which means you aren’t alone either.

This sense of failure isn’t predictable. Things seem to be fine, and then maybe a little discouragement blossoms into this full-fledged battle with failure. It’s difficult to anticipate when these days will come, but when they do, it’s hard to shake the feeling. Days can go by where the grip of failure overwhelms you and discourages you from the important calling God has given you as a husband and father.

How do you pull out of the funk of feeling like a failure? Like most spiritual battles, the truth will set us free (John 8:32). People who point us back to the truth are valuable resources in these moments. I have one close friend that I reach out to in my lowest moments, and he is always ready to encourage me, pray for me, and direct my thoughts back to truth. It is clinging to truth that helps me walk through the valley into the sunshine again.

An Incomplete Picture

The truth that I’ve been meditating on recently as I’ve battled feelings of failure has been this: I can see only an incomplete picture.

Last fall we did several improvements to the exterior of our house: a new roof, painted the siding, reframed the garage, changed the trim color, changed the house numbers, etc. I’m not a handyman by any stretch of the imagination, but I can plod along. So each week we chipped away a little at a time at the projects. Half-way through the project, Google Maps updated our street view picture, after the siding was painted but before the trim color was changed! Based on that picture, our “improvements” failed. And that’s what happens with these feelings of failure: we snap a mental photo half-way through a project, and to us, our parenting looks like a disaster.

Three Promises from God

My perspective is so limited: I can’t see my child’s heart, nor do I know the plan God has for him or her. Instead of allowing the natural ups and downs of parenting to dictate my feelings, I need to remember God’s promises and trust his Word. When you feel like a failure, here are three promises of God to remember and cling to.

1. Philippians 1:6 – God will complete the work.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Every child belongs to God. He graciously uses us to raise these children to love and follow Christ. What a comfort it is, and how much pressure is lifted from our shoulders, when we remember that God will complete the work.

I’m ashamed at how often I’ve forgotten that God is at work in my boys’ hearts. It may not seem like things are going well, but if God is “on the job”, he will see the process of their growth and development through to the end. What you are seeing now is just part of the journey; who knows at what stage God has you and your family in. He can be trusted; he will complete the work.

2. Galatians 6:7 – It takes time to reap a spiritual harvest.

Galatians 6:7 is known as the law of sowing and reaping: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”

One aspect of this law of sowing and reaping is that you always reap later than you sow. Godliness takes time to appear. Therefore, we can take encouragement from Galatians 6:9- “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

There is no magical formula for parenting, no “easy button” to push to make everything better. The slow grind of raising your children often feels frustrating. It’s like running on a treadmill—a lot of motion but no forward progress.

Just like I’m no handyman, neither am I a farmer. However, I suspect that a farmer who expects a crop to ripen just a few days after planting it will not be in the farming business for long. He will feel like a failure if he expects results prematurely.

Godly parenting takes the long view; it aims to shape the hearts of children to love Jesus with all their hearts and follow Jesus for the rest of their lives. That level of commitment does not ripen overnight, but it can be watered and fed each day. Proverbs 22:6 agrees: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” This isn’t a blanket promise, but a principle that affirms this law of sowing and reaping. When you feel like a failure, take the long view and keep planting the truth of Scripture deep in the hearts of your children.

3. Psalm 55:22 – God will sustain you.

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” God invites us to cast our burdens on him, and he promises to strengthen us.

1 Peter 5:6-7 quotes Psalm 55:22: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” Casting your burden on the Lord is a sign of humility, and only the humble receive God’s grace.

Closing Encouragements

Most men don’t like help, and most men don’t like to admit weakness. It takes humility to acknowledge your limitations and failures. Yet it is in that humiliation that we receive grace from the Lord.

My friend, allow the feelings of failure to humble you and provoke you to run back to the Lord. The feelings the enemy uses to discourage you can be the same feelings the Lord uses to grow you in grace.

No dad who clings to God’s promises is a failure. Don’t be weary, my friend; press on in your parenting!

Recommended Resources: “I frequently feel like a father failure” by Mark Ward.

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