Do we have a theology of failure? Not of suffering, but of failure.
We tell one another, "God will work all things out for good." Or, "It wasn't meant to be. God has something else in store for you." And those may be true, but is that all we've got?
I ask because this is a period of failure for me. I have the Midas touch turned awry--everything I touch turns to dust. (Of course, Midas learned having a touch of gold wasn't everything he'd dreamed, either.) At my worst moments, it's hard not to whine, "Why not me, God? What's wrong with me?" Doesn't he have plans to prosper me? If I pray, won't he expand my land?
But I know it's not as simple as that. God's promise told to the Israelites through Jeremiah that he'd prosper them was one that wouldn't come true for years and years. They'd first have to endure 70 years of captivity as a result of their failure to turn to God.
I'd rather not have that long wait to find out what God has in store for me.
Then come the questions of why: Did I do something wrong to warrant failure? Is God trying to teach me a lesson (and once I learn it, will everything work out like a sitcom?)? Am I not good enough? Is this failing because God truly does have something better in store (dare I hope?)? Is it spiritual warfare? Is Satan involved somehow? Did I not pray hard enough, tithe enough, evangelize enough?
Is this a season of stripping?
I'm guessing there's not one theology of failure, just as there's not one theology of suffering, but here's what I'm learning so far (notice the use of present tense, not past):
I can trust God, not just because he loves to give his children good gifts, but because I can be satisfied in him.
I am God's child, not because I'm great but because he is.
I can worship God. Even when I fail, even when everything I attempt flops, God is true, holy, and lovely.
Beauty surrounds me in the love of my husband, our families, and our friends, in this creation, which holds daily delights, in everyday pleasures such as a good book, a good painting, a good TV show (I'm not above saying I watch TV almost daily!), or a shared bottle of wine amongst good friends and good conversation (a testimony of the Body of Christ).
The resurrection, restoration, and re-creation of the earth does not depend on my failures. The hope of our happily-ever-after renews me moment by moment. My failures here make me look forward all the more to that harmonious time when I can create and play in the joy (and physical presence) of Christ.
These are the thoughts I cling to when the questions arise ("For the love, throw me a bone! Can't one thing work?"). They may not form an entire theology of failure, but they are points of light in a dark sky--constellations that tell stories and guide me home.