Purpose Driven Failure

One day a bunch of my coworkers and I were sitting around waiting for work to start. The phone rang, but none of us thought too much about it. Answering the phone isn’t part of our usual job. Normally there are other people who do that.

“Answer the phone,” said one of my coworkers to the person who was closest. For whatever reason, he didn’t answer it. Nobody answered it. The call went to voice mail.

My boss, who is normally a pretty chill guy, came over, and he was furious.

“All of you were sitting here, I was across the parking lot, and none of you could answer the phone? If one person doesn’t want to answer it, someone else do it. Do you guys know how to answer the phone? You press the green button and say, ‘Hello?”

My boss sighed in disgust, and went upstairs to retrieve the message.

“Why didn’t I just answer it?” I thought to myself. “Now my boss thinks I’m pathetically incompetent. Great.”

When my boss came back down, he told us the message was from a kid’s parents letting us know that the kid was going to be dropping in that day. By that time of day my boss doesn’t usually check for messages, so if he hadn’t heard the phone ringing from across the parking lot, we would never have known that kid would be in our care that day. The consequences could have been bad, all because no one wanted to answer a phone call. My boss was so mad and disappointed in us (and rightfully so) that he brought up the subject again for the next two days. I think all of us felt bad.

One moment’s indecision led to three days of lecturing, and a negative perception in the eyes of someone I didn’t want to think negatively of me. “All I had to do was answer the phone. Something so simple and easy, yet I completely failed to do it.” I felt like a huge idiot.

Granted, it was an odd situation. I don’t know why nobody else answered the phone. Work hadn’t even started, and it wasn’t part of our normal duties to answer phone calls. There were plenty of reasons available to use as excuses for why I didn’t answer the phone. After all, there were many other people who could have done it, people who were sitting closer to the phone than I was, and I kind of figured one of them would get it. Nevertheless, once it became apparent no one else was going to get it, I should have. The bottom line is I knew the right thing to do, and I didn’t do it.

Everyone fails sometimes. It’s a given. But then there are times when we might fail, and fail miserably. Sometimes we fail in ridiculous ways, at things we should have been able to do easily, things that are pretty common sense. Sometimes we know the right thing to do, and for some odd reason, fail to act. It seems like I’ve had a lot of these types of moments this past year. Every time something like this happens, I’m left beating my head against a wall, thinking, “Why in the world didn’t I just do it…?”

My boss eventually got over it (I think), but it doesn’t always work like that. It seems like sometimes when I’m in situations like this, I realize my mistake, try to fix it, but it only seems to make things worse. At some point people switch us off, and give up expecting anything from us, so no matter what we do, it doesn’t matter. They already have a fixed image in their mind of who we are, and they’re not willing to change that. I guess I can’t really blame them. When we fail at something that’s pretty basic, I guess it’s sort of hard to get over.

Hopefully we don’t have too many stupid moments, but it happens to everyone from time-to-time, and when it does, we can’t let it bring us down. It’s good to feel remorse, but we have to learn our lesson and move on. We can’t let it get to us, or we could end up making even more mistakes.

Sometimes people are not willing to forgive us. People are not always willing to give us another chance, but thankfully we have a God that is always willing.

It’s sometimes hard to understand why we fail at things we should have been able to do easily, things we don’t expect to fail at. It’s usually frustrating for everyone involved. It makes people disappointed in us, and understandably so. If you’re like me, you’re left feeling deep shame and regret. But moments like these are actually blessings. God uses times like this to mold us. He humbles us, exposes our weaknesses, and reminds us that we’re not all that great by ourselves, and that we need him. I think God does this to prepare us for the great plans he has, so that the next time around, when the stakes are higher, when it matters most, we’re ready.

At the end of the day, we’re stronger people because of the mistakes we make, as long as we learn from them. Our failures are not really failures, just lessons we need to learn from.


Proverbs 24:16

For the righteous fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.




Decision Making with God

2 Samuel 7:1-3


After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”

Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”

The books of Samuel record how God delivered David from his enemies, and turned him from a shepherd into king over all of Israel. David wanted to give thanks, and thought it would be a good idea to build a temple for God.

It makes sense, right? Why should David live in a palace, while the ark of God stays in a tent? David had the wealth and opportunity to make it happen. It seemed like such a good idea that the prophet Nathan even told David to go ahead and do it.

David had good intentions. He could have spent his riches on lavish things for himself, his family, or friends, or to show off his power to the people he ruled or to foreign nations. Instead David wanted to use his wealth to glorify God. He knew building a temple wouldn’t be easy, and would take years to complete, but he was willing to put in the time and effort.

But God denied David’s request.

As Christians, we should strive to do only what we believe God wants us to do. When we want something for selfish reasons, it should come as no surprise if God denies us. But there are times when we want something for all the right reasons, and are still denied by God.

Sometimes we’re presented with easier options, options that are available immediately instead of having to wait, but we feel compelled to pass those up in favor of a longer, more difficult route. The easy roads might seem alluring in some ways, but sometimes the more difficult road is ultimately the more fruitful road. When we’re willing to be patient, when want something for selfless, righteous reasons, we might come to think that that is what God wants us to do, that it is part of His plan.

David wanted to build a temple for God. He wanted this for all the right reasons, and it seemed as if it was in God’s plans for him to do so. I’m sure David was disappointed when God turned down his request. His intentions were good, but God simply had other plans for him. Instead of letting David build a temple, he had him establish a kingdom that would reign for all eternity. A pretty good trade, wouldn’t you say?

Likewise, we can want something for all the right reasons, and we might come to think that maybe it is part of God’s plan. But ultimately, the decision is God’s alone, and His plan is always best. He withholds nothing from us. If we want something for all the right reasons, and he still denies us, it’s only because he has something better planned. We should trust that his plan is better than anything we could plan on our own. Accepting God’s “no” takes as much faith as carrying out his “yes.”

Picture of a Cambodian Boy

I find this picture disturbing, gross, and sad all at the same time. This shows you the desperation of the people of Cambodia.

This clipping is from a Singapore newspaper. This boy lives in a village near Siem Reap, which is the same district where we worked and stayed. The caption reads,

Getting his milk by udder means –

Eighteen-month-old Tha Sophat suclking milk from a cow in Nokor Pheas village, Nokor Chum district, in Siem Reap on Sunday. The Cambodian boy has been feeding himself by sucking directly from a cow as part of his daily meals since his parents left to work in Thailand, the child’s grandfather told Reuters. Mr. Um Oeung, 46, said his grandson has been doing this for a month now after the family’s home was swept away in a storm last year, leaving behind a total debt of $1,000.

Unfortunately, strange and disturbing stories like this are commonplace in Cambodia. So many people, children especially, find themselves in desperate situations like this.  A debt of $1,000 may not seem like too much here in America, but to most Cambodians, it’s a fortune. Many Cambodians, for one reason or another, find themselves deep in debt, with no way to get out. That’s why so many children are sold into slavery/indentured servitude.