When Adam sinned, he tried to hide from God. When Peter denied Christ, he was afraid to face him. When Jonah refused to preach to Nineveh, his fear drove him into the ocean, to flee the presence of the Lord. Something much worse than failure is the fear that goes with it.
Adam, Jonah, and Peter ran away from God, not because they lost their love for him, but because they were afraid he was too angry with them to understand. The accuser of the brethren waits, like a vulture, for you to fail in some way. Then he uses every lie in hell to make you give up, to convince you that God is too holy or you are too sinful to come back. Or he makes you afraid you are not perfect enough or that you will never rise above your failure.
It took forty years to get the fear out of Moses and to make him usable in God's program. If Moses or Jacob or David had resigned himself to failure, we might never again have heard of these men.
Yet Moses rose up again to become one of God's greatest heroes. Jacob faced his sins, was reunited with the brother he had cheated, and reached new heights of victory. David ran into the house of God, found forgiveness and peace, and returned to his finest hour.
Jonah retraced his steps, did what he had refused to do at first and brought a whole city to repentance. Peter rose out of the ashes of denial to lead a church to Pentecost.
In 1958, I sat in my little car weeping; I was a terrible failure, I thought. I had been unceremoniously dumped from a courtroom after I thought I was led by God to witness to seven teenage murderers.
My attempt to obey God and to help those young hoodlums looked as though it were ending in horrible failure. I shudder to think of how much blessing I would have missed if I had given up in that dark hour. How glad I am today that God taught me to face my failure and go on to his next step for me.