To the ones who think they’ve failed

by Jonathan Trotter on December 1, 2015

photo-1448067686092-1f4f2070baae1So, you failed to save the world.
You failed to complete the task of global evangelism.
You failed to see massive geopolitical change in your region.
You failed. Or at least you feel like it.

Good-hearted people in your organization (maybe) and your churches (hopefully) tell you you’re not a failure. But you still feel like one. You came home before you planned. Maybe for health reasons. Maybe for burnout reasons. Maybe you don’t need reasons. You were done, so you finished. You came “home.”

But now you’re finding home’s not home anymore. You knew for sure you didn’t fit in there, but now you’re very much afraid you don’t fit in here anymore. You failed there, and now you feel like you’re failing here. You want to believe that some good came of it. Or will come of it. Or something.

For now, though, you mourn. And you should, because you lost something. You lost dreams, maybe, and years. You lost relationships. Some of those relationships you wanted to lose. Others, you didn’t. And still other relationships you thought you’d regain, you haven’t.

So mourn. Mourn well. Jesus is near to those who mourn. Feel the loss. Welcome it, even. It is a bitter pill that you should swallow as often as needed.

You’re still part of the team. You’re not a washed up, has been, burnt out, broken down, used up, person. You are a child of God, dearly loved. Cherished. And you are still needed. The Church still needs you. The Father still wants you. Jesus still loves you. And the Holy Spirit is still near to you.

The Church still needs your voice. You’ve seen things that many folks “back home” haven’t. Your voice is different. Weird, maybe. But it’s so needed in the Church that sent you. Don’t let them forget the global nature of the Kingdom of God. The Church still needs you.

The foreign mission field needs you. You can counsel, caution, and console in a way few people can. Those still serving abroad need you. Be a voice for them. Be a voice to them.

May you find God to be the great Restorer. The One who heals.
The Great I AM at both departure and destination.
The King who knows you’re always en route.

May you find Peace. May you realize that God’s love for you was never conditioned on your performance. Ever.
He loved you then. He loves you now.
He asks you to love him.
He asks you to obey him.

So whether you’re here or there,
Whether you feel like a wonderful success or an abject failure,
May you remember His love.

May you believe His love, shining most eloquently through his Son, and may that belief lead to obedience. Here, there, everywhere.

And in the middle of it all, may you hear the Father calling you.



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About Jonathan Trotter

Jonathan is a missionary in Southeast Asia, where he provides pastoral counseling at a local counseling center. He also serves as one of the pastors at an international church. Before moving to the field with his wife of sixteen years and their four kids, he served as a youth pastor in the Midwest for ten years. He enjoys walking with people towards Jesus and eating imported Twizzlers. | | facebook: trotters41 | twitter: @trotters41
  • Glenn Miles

    This is really helpful Jonathan thanks!

    • I’m glad, Glenn! I so respect your life and work in Cambodia, I’m happy our paths crossed…

  • K

    Needed to read this! Truth. Thank you.

    • Thanks for the comment. May these truths continue to be a blessing to you and yours.

  • Lindee Lind

    Well I would like to believe you really I would but the “good hearted” people of our church turned their backs on us and actually have made it quite clear they think we are failures. There is no “home” left to go to.

    • How sad for them and for you. May you find healing.

    • Oh, wow, I am so sorry! I hope and pray that you can find some sort of support and encouragement as you search for “home.” May the Father make His presence known in very clear and real ways!

      Also, and I don’t know if this would be helpful or not, but the book Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud has been very helpful to me at various intersections in life. You might want to check it out…

      • Lindee Lind

        Thanks Jonathon, I have read alot of Henry Clouds stuff. I will try to find it. At the moment, I am just so emotionally and spiritually exhausted that the thought of reading something else is almost too much…

  • Marilyn Gardner

    So good Jonathan – so important. I’ve so been there. And the other side of healing is a sweet respite. But in the middle of it you want to curl up and curse the faith that sustains you, and the well-wishers who sound like Charlie Brown adults “wah waah wu waaah” So glad to have you and Elizabeth in this space.

    • “The other side of healing is a sweet respite.” That’s awesome, Marilyn! Thanks for the comment, and thanks for the encouragement too!

  • Anna Wegner

    I read this yesterday, and it made me cry so I couldn’t comment at the time. 🙂 We left early, less than 1/2 way through our term. We had some really wise advice to take the time to really recover before going on to the next thing. There were some people who let us know that we should (in their opinion) be faithful, not quit, etc. Most of these it was easy to ignore, because it was pretty clear that it wasn’t about us or about God- it was about someone’s agenda. But it does get to you after hearing it over & over. Fortunately, we also had so many people who would refute that, remind us that isn’t how God works, and following Him is more important than following a certain plan. Plans change; He never does.

    As hard as it was, we know it was the right thing to do. We came back battered and bruised emotionally. On this side of the ocean, we’ve been surrounded by so much love. We’ve had the time to grieve what we lost, and it’s still a process. People have been incredibly understanding of our need for space and time to recover and find our footing again. I have been overwhelmed by the support, especially when I hear stories and know it’s not like that for everyone who returns early.

    I’m very aware that my view is different, and I’m always pleasantly surprised when people want to hear our experience and our views on things. I get used to my ministry being “in Africa” and I forget that it is here, too. One thing is that with all the turmoil in the world, we each need the peace of God more than ever. And I’ve had the opportunity to share lately that I know that it is possible in the midst of danger and uncertainty to have that peace. 🙂

    • Thanks so much for sharing, Anna! That’s so cool that you’ve found a place to serve “in Africa” and here, too. May the Father’s peace be upon you and all those he sends you to…

  • Samantha

    Thanks so much for writing this. We are in the midst of praying about what to do, whether to stay or go home, and we feel like failures. Either way is hard, and either way is sad.

    • Hard discussions and hard prayers. May the God of all comfort be near to you and yours…

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