How to overcome setbacks in life

Published 9:06 pm Monday, July 31, 2017

Setbacks! Will we have them? Most definitely! We will have them in our jobs, homes, relationships, goals, plans, indeed in every aspect of life.

Life is very much like a baby who is just learning to walk. There are days in which everything goes smooth. Then there are also days of distress, hindrance, and stumbling. But the difference between whether we accomplish anything or not be is how we react after we fall.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”

Setbacks are inevitable! The mantle of leadership had fallen upon Joshua’s shoulders. Moses was dead, and Joshua’s time had come. The children of Israel had crossed the Jordan river and the first city they came to was Jericho. There, they experienced a great victory. And, of course, that victory has been set to music: “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho and the walls came tumbling down.” So, the people celebrated and rejoiced at the goodness of God and their smashing triumph. And Joshua, as the man of the hour, received hardy congratulations all around.

However, the next city they were to come to was a smaller city, Ai. This looked easy compared to Jericho. No need to send the whole army there, just a company or two can take care of the situation. But tragically, the Israelites suffered a terrible humiliating setback. The Israelite army was routed and many of the troops were slain as they tried to flee to safety. As I mentioned, it was a tremendous setback.

All of us have suffered setbacks and have felt discouraged. More than once we have spread our wings, only to be shot down in devastation. Welcome to the club-it’s designated the human race. And without exception, all of us are members of that club. Nobody escapes setbacks.

Next, setbacks can be beneficial! J.K. Rowling is the well-known author of the Harry Potter phenomenon. In a back issue of “Reader’s Digest” (June 2015), there is an article titled, “J.K. Rowling and the Flames of Failure.” The article is taken from the book “Very Good Lives” which is an illustrated version of Mrs. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard University commencement speech,

At any rate, Rowling had failed miserably in her life prior to writing the Harry Potter books. Her marriage had been short, she was jobless, a single parent and desperately poor. The setbacks had simply piled up one upon another.

But in the article, Rowling talked about the benefits of failure. She stated, “Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential.” Consequently, she accepted herself as she was. She was able to focus on the one thing she really wanted to do and felt capable of doing-write. Her setbacks had taught her that she was secure in her ability to survive.

One more thing! Setbacks can be overcome! God did not let Joshua continue wallowing in his defeat or setback. “Stand up!” God said. “Why have you fallen upon your face?” (Joshua 7:10). Then God told Joshua to search out the reason for his setback. As the late Ellsworth Kalas  put it, “God wanted Joshua to let his defeat[setback] be his teacher.”

In terms of setbacks, we can divide people into two categories: learners and non-learners. When learners have a setback they are less likely to repeat it. On the other hand, when non-learners have a setback they are generally destined to continue with other setbacks.

The following are several ways we might overcome our setbacks.

1. Acknowledge what went wrong and own it! That’s what Joshua and the Israelites did. They found out in their situation who had sinned and put their house in order.

2. Dedicate the setback to God! We can actually dedicate our setbacks to God, since He has a stake in our total life, including our setbacks. Isn’t that what Paul did? His persecution, his shipwreck, his disappointment, his thorn in the flesh-all were dedicated to God.

3. Forget the setbacks and move on! We can’t, of course, make the setbacks disappear from our minds, but neither should we keep the setbacks at the conscious level of our minds. Again, Paul had the answer when he declared, “…forgetting what lies behind…I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:13,14). Paul knew that he could never find victory if he were burdened down with the weight of his setbacks. And neither can we.

4. Be mindful of the Promise of God! When Joshua took command from Moses, God said to him, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you nor forsake you, only be very strong and courageous…” (Joshua 1:5,7),

It is well known that the late Roy Acuff was the real power behind the success of the Grand Ole Opry. Performers had to pass Acuff’s door in order to get on stage. And on Acuff’s door, beneath his name, was this inscription, “There ain’t nothing gonna come today that me and God can’t handle.” In God’s grace, setbacks can be overcome.

Hal Brady operates Hal Brady Ministries in Decatur with the stated goal of presenting the good news of Jesus and offering encouragement in positive ways.