Failure & God’s Will

Sometimes we can think we have been inspired by the Holy Spirit to do a work or move in a specific life direction.  Our hearts burn within us and we just know this is our purpose in life.  Everything up to the point of decision seems to point that way.  Discernment, spiritual direction, prayer, even coincidental events seem to confirm the inspiration, purpose, or might we say “calling.”  So we proceed with fervor—for hours, days, sometimes years.

Then the axe drops. 

An inspired work is rejected; illness strikes, other commitments get in the way.  Sometimes that which we thought was our calling becomes the calling of another.  They succeed where we did not.  At this point, we may ask, “Why?” or “Is there really a God?” or “God must have played some twisted joke.”  Grief over the loss of a dream sets in and the new task becomes working through that grief and then reevaluating and allowing God to take us in another direction (or be grateful for where we presently are).

Hundreds of Saints weathered these kinds of personal failures or losses of God-inspired dreams.  First and foremost were the apostles.  They thought with all their hearts that their call was to help Jesus free the Jews from Roman domination.  Then he was crucified.  While the apostles lived to realize that their call was really to help spread the Good News of a greater freedom, many Saints died knowing only that they failed.  Others completed their God-given inspirations. 

Venerable Charles de Foucauld failed.  “In ten years in the desert, he had not made a single convert… plans for new [religious] orders had not been carried out.”

St. Francis Xavier was never able to found a seminary and school to attract priestly vocations to serve the American Indians.

St. Joseph Calasanctius and St. Francis of Assisi watched their founded orders fall into dissension and lose the original charism they thought was the will of God. 

St. Francis Borgia thought he was called to marriage, family, and a particular employment he had been offered by a Spanish prince.  After a year, the offer of employment never came to pass and another was never proposed.  His wife then had a miscarriage and died.

St. Benedicta of the Cross thought God had given her a great mind to use in His service. Instead she died in a concentration camp. 

We cannot really know what God calls us to.  Perhaps it is the living through one failure or disappointment after another.  Perhaps it is persevering with a chronic illness like depression or bipolar illness.   Perhaps however content doesn’t really matter.  Success or failure, we are called to be FAITHFUL.

“God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.”   Blessed Theresa of Calcutta



Reference: O’Malley, Vincent J.  Ordinary Suffering of Extraordinary Saints. Our Sunday Visitor, 2000.