Failure. I'm not a big fan of it. Especially when I've given it my all, and still couldn't accomplish what I started out to do. Sometimes, repeated failure is God's way of saying it's just not His will. In that respect, it's useful. But I think there's more to it than that.
I started smoking at the age of 15. Not one of my better ideas, I'll admit. Eventually, I wanted to quit. So I did... and I failed. I kept trying periodically over the next 17 years, each time with renewed resolve. One time, my success lasted 7 months. Another time, it lasted only 15 minutes. Mostly my success could be measured in days. But each attempt had one thing in common... eventual failure.
Looking back, there are a couple of things I feel fairly sure of. One was that God probably preferred that I do something more meaningful with the financial resources He had entrusted to me. The other was that He probably was not pleased with what I was doing to the once-healthy set of lungs He had given me. I would have expected Him to bless my efforts a little more mightily, these things considered.
And then something happened. I lit up a cigarette only to discover I had completely lost all taste and desire for them. As a matter of fact, just the sight of the ashtray made me sick! That was the last cigarette I ever lit.
What happened? A miracle, and obviously, it wasn't ME who accomplished it. I think God was telling me a few things...
First, I believe he used my failures as a way to really get my attention, when the time was right. If I had succeeded in giving up smoking on my own, I would have patted myself on the back for a job well done. This way, there was no mistaking who was responsible, and who was not responsible.
Second, I learned that no amount of resolve or determination makes up for leaving God out of the equation. Without Him, it can't be done, no matter what "it" is.
Third, and probably most importantly, God's working even when it really, really seems like He isn't. He's just carrying out His own plan on His own timetable. Just knowing this makes it a little easier to have faith when it seems like God's not paying attention to what's happening in my life.
My plan was to quit smoking. God's plan was that I quit smoking, realize my inadequacy apart from Him, and to show me that He's worthy of my faith and trust, even (and especially) when I can't see that He's doing anything.
I got so much more from my failure than I ever would have from my success!