I recently rewatched the 2007 movie Meet the Robinsons, a cult classic that I used to love watching with my brothers as a kid.
My first thought while watching was “Wow this is a weird movie.”
My second thought was “What did Tom Selleck get out of joining this cast?”
But then about halfway through, I thought, “Wait this movie is…deep?” This part stood out the most to me:
“From failing you learn. From success, not so much.”
This mindset is helpful for me as we start yet another new year. If you know me, you know that every new year I write in my self-proclaimed “New Year’s journal” about what happened in the past year and what I hope to see happen in the new year.
I don’t read the journal again until the following January. When I open it again, I look back on the year and reflect on what mindset I was in a year prior. I love to look at what I expected to happen versus what really happened. I’ve been writing in this journal every year since I was nine, and it’s always funny to look back on each year.
When I opened my notebook this year, I was feeling less than hopeful. A lot like Lewis in Meet the Robinsons, I’ve been feeling terrified of failing, looking bad, letting people down, or making the wrong decisions.
I see a lot of potential for good to happen, but feel like I’m just going to screw it up. I’m afraid of the unknown and not being prepared for it. With all the uncertainty of the pandemic over the last few years, I’m sure a lot of people feel the same.
But I was surprised and encouraged to read what I wrote at the beginning of last year. After enduring the fear, pain, and uncertainty of 2020, I started 2021 excited to see what was possible in the new year. Rather than facing the unknown with my usual skepticism and fear, I was looking forward to what I didn’t yet know would happen or could be accomplished.
After reading, I realized that there were so many answered prayers, so many things that happened this past year that I had no idea would come. As Lewis finds out in Meet the Robinsons, sometimes taking action in the midst of fear and uncertainty opens up our paths to something we wouldn’t expect.
We don’t need to be strong or capable in order to move forward— we actually become strong once we decide to move forward.
The righteous keep moving forward, and those with clean hands become stronger and stronger.
Job 17:9 NLT
God characterizes righteous people not as perfect, successful, or all-knowing, but as people who move forward. When thinking about new year’s resolutions or change in general, have you ever thought one of the following or something similar?
“I want to meet this specific need in my community, but I need to figure out my own life first.”
“I want this relationship to be closer, but I need to work myself and my bitterness out first.”
“I want to pursue this vision God put on my heart, but I need to get more confident and capable first.”
We can’t wait to act until we know all the answers. It is in trying, failing, and venturing out of the familiar into the unknown that God can do his magic in our lives.
Faith motivated Abraham to obey God’s call and leave the familiar to discover the territory he was destined to inherit from God. So he left with only a promise and without even knowing ahead of time where he was going, Abraham stepped out in faith.
Hebrews 11:8 TPT
The Bible defines faith as believing in something we don’t see (Hebrews 11:1), and it was this faith that motivated Abraham to leave the familiar and move forward to discover what God had in store for him. This is what our faith should compel us to do as well.
Let’s look at why we should embrace failure, learn how to let go and let God work, and see what it looks like when we move forward.
The beauty of imperfection
But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what GOD is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.
Micah 6:8 MSG
God makes it clear what he expects from us—to love him and love others. We make things complicated when we start taking ourselves too seriously, and expect more from ourselves than God expects from us.
Imagine what could happen if you stopped expecting perfection from yourself, but instead expected authenticity and care? What could you accomplish with God?
Before we jump into what it looks like to let God work so we can move forward, let’s see what it looks like when we’re taking ourselves a little too seriously.
But they did not obey Me or bend their ear to hear Me, but followed the counsels and the stubbornness of their own evil heart mind, and they turned and went backward instead of forward.
Jeremiah 7:24 AMP
Pride is a sure roadblock to moving forward. Insisting on doing things our own way rather than God’s way shows that there is part of us that thinks our way will work better than God’s. This is the essence of the biblical sin of pride—the quality of having an excessively high opinion of oneself.
The sin of pride is what makes us follow and rely on our own wisdom more than God’s. Pride also makes us stubborn and unwilling to admit when our way isn’t working. By stubbornly following what we think is best and what we can do on our own, we go backward instead of forward.
This is because when all we are focused on is what we are capable of doing, our thinking will always be small. Have you ever felt stuck, or that no matter what you do or how hard you work, it never seems to be good enough? That no matter how close you are to perfection, you still end up falling short? This may be because you are trying to do it all yourself rather than relying on God.
They didn’t really believe the promises of God; they refused to trust him and move forward in faith.
Psalm 78:10 TPT
Unbelief is another roadblock to moving forward. When we don’t believe God is who he says he is or does what he says he will do, we will have a hard time moving forward in faith. Like the scripture says, doubting God’s promises makes us mistrustful, which can make us second-guess any decisions to move forward.
Undealt-with unbelief in our hearts can taint our view of God and turn our relationship with him into a religious duty rather than an intimate friendship. If we don’t really believe in things like God’s forgiveness, God’s care, or God’s desire for honesty and closeness, we will become more focused on what we’re doing right or wrong (or even on the disappointment we think God has in us) than on possibilities for growth and connection.
And you did not receive the “spirit of religious duty,” leading you back into the fear of never being good enough. But you have received the “Spirit of full acceptance,” enfolding you into the family of God. And you will never feel orphaned, for as he rises up within us, our spirits join him in saying the words of tender affection, “Beloved Father!”
Romans 8:15 TPT
We will be afraid of never being good enough as long as we are aiming for perfection and have unaddressed pride and unbelief in our hearts. Once we realize that God has already accepted us, we can let go and just be in relationship with him!
Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.
Psalm 51:16 MSG
The way to let go of perfection and let God move you forward is by letting your pride get shattered. Rather than trying to look good or seem like you have it all together, humble out and be honest about what has been holding you back from moving forward, so that God can show you that you are already loved and accepted for who you are.
Pause and reflect
What are ways you take yourself too seriously?
What doubts do you have about God and his promises?
What can you do today to be humble so you can see God move?
Let go and let God
I’m not there yet, nor have I become perfect; but I am charging on to gain anything and everything the Anointed One, Jesus, has in store for me—and nothing will stand in my way because He has grabbed me and won’t let me go.
Philippians 3:12 VOICE
When we let go of the doubt, fear, and pride that hold us back we can move forward to see everything God has in store for us. When we believe God isn’t going to let us go, we have the freedom to fail, fall flat on our faces, and in that process discover what’s possible!
I recently watched the movie Encanto on Disney Plus. If you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend it—in fact, I was very tempted to make this entire study just a breakdown of that movie. The movie is about Mirabel Madrigal and her family, who live in an enchanted house that grants magical gifts to each child when they come of age.
Mirabel’s sister, Isabela, has the gift of growing beautiful flowers and plants. Throughout the movie, Mirabel is jealous of Isabela’s seemingly effortless beauty and perfection, but soon discovers that her sister feels trapped by the need to be perfect. Only when Isabela lets go of that need does she discover what she’s truly capable of.
While this entire song is so powerful, the line that stands out most to me is:
“What could I do it if I just knew it didn’t need to be perfect, it just needed to be?”
Isabela realizes that as she stops trying to be perfect, she is opening the door to opportunities she didn’t even know were there. She becomes curious, passionate, and determined to discover what is possible. She leaves behind a cautious, held back, timid life and embraces a messy, bold, and colorful one.
We can do the same when we let go of our fear and let God lead us forward.
So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?”
Romans 8:12, 15 MSG
There are things to do and places to go! Do you have a fearful attitude of “What happened?” Or an excited, determined one of “What’s next?”
When we build and deepen our relationship with God, we will develop a mindset of looking ahead to what’s next.
Put God first and let him lead
Make God the utmost delight and pleasure of your life, and he will provide for you what you desire the most. Give God the right to direct your life, and as you trust him along the way you’ll find he pulled it off perfectly!
Psalm 37:4-5 TPT
As we make God the utmost delight and pleasure of our lives, we can trust him to provide for us and direct our lives perfectly. What does it mean to make God the utmost delight and pleasure of your life? It starts by spending time with him—reading the Bible to know him and praying to let him know you.
Then we must clear out what holds us back—like the pride, doubt, and fear mentioned earlier—and reflect on what already is our utmost delight and pleasure. Is it achievement, money, people’s approval, comfort, or even bitterness? Once we let these go, we will have the clarity to see where God is leading us.
Trust in the Lord completely, and do not rely on your own opinions. With all your heart rely on him to guide you, and he will lead you in every decision you make. Become intimate with him in whatever you do, and he will lead you wherever you go. Don’t think for a moment that you know it all, for wisdom comes when you adore him with undivided devotion and avoid everything that’s wrong. Then you will find the healing refreshment your body and spirit long for.
Proverbs 3:5-8 TPT
When we become intimate with God, we can trust that God will lead us in every decision we make. Even when we don’t know where we’re going, we can still move forward confidently because we trust God to take care of us.
A few years ago, I finished my first semester of graduate school—and I was miserable. I was questioning whether this was the career path I wanted. I was completely isolated from my relationships, and I was exhausted. During my winter break, I had to make a decision: was I going to pursue this career I wasn’t even sure I wanted, or was I going to move on, even though I didn’t know what that would mean?
I had to do all the work I mentioned earlier. I was honest about the pride, doubt, and fear that clouded my vision. I had to be honest with God and my friends about how much I was being driven by the sense of accomplishment that came with having a Master’s degree, and how gripped I was by the fear of what my classmates, professors, and friends would think if I dropped out.
I had to have so many prayers where I was completely real about what I was really thinking—how I didn’t trust God to take care of my future, and how afraid I was of making the wrong decision.
I had to find passages in the Bible that told me the opposite of what I believed, that reassured me that God had my back, that my value didn’t come from achievement, and that I didn’t need to know all the answers in order to move forward.
I ultimately decided to leave, and this work I put into my relationship with God gave me the clarity I needed to be confident I made the right decision. I was able to move ahead without any regrets, and to this day I’m glad I made the decision I did.
This was a decision I made between me and God. Though I don’t condone everyone dropping out of their graduate programs, I do recommend going through the process of becoming intimate with God so you can get the clarity you need to move forward in the areas you need it.
Make God your strength
The Lord GOD is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army]; He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet And makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my high places [of challenge and responsibility].
Habakkuk 3:19 AMP
The more we move forward, the more challenging our lives become. Whether it’s unpredictable circumstances, conflict in relationships, or newfound responsibility, we all at some point face a mountain we are incapable of climbing on our own.
But we are able to move forward even in the midst of difficulty when God is our strength and source of courage.
Any temptation you face will be nothing new. But God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can handle. But He always provides a way of escape so that you will be able to endure and keep moving forward.
1 Corinthians 10:13 VOICE
The goal of going through difficulty is not to just endure or get through it, but to be able to move forward. When we believe God is on our side, difficulty and temptation become opportunities, not obstacles. Difficulty in life is not a pass or fail test, but a chance to grow, to love, and to discover more of what we are capable of with God.
Pause and reflect
What could you do if you knew it didn’t need to be perfect?
Where is God trying to lead you forward?
What happens when we move forward?
Then Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid! Take your stand [be firm and confident and undismayed] and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for those Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you while you [only need to] keep silent and remain calm.”
Exodus 14:13-14 AMP
The Israelites were in a position where they felt stuck. They were running from the Egyptians who had enslaved them and came up to a dead-end when they reached the ocean. In response to their fear, Moses gave a reassuring answer: Don’t worry! God’s on your side and fighting for you—so just be calm!
But what was God’s response?
The LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to move forward [toward the sea]. As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, so that the sons of Israel may go through the middle of the sea on dry land.
Exodus 14:15-16 AMP
Though what Moses said was true—God was fighting for the Israelites and they didn’t need to be afraid—God didn’t want them to just sit around and wait for him to do something. If we truly believe God is fighting for us, this should compel us to take action and move forward, not just wait around.
The Israelites didn’t look at the Red Sea and doubt they could cross it; they didn’t even consider the Red Sea as an option. But God took them down a path they didn’t even know was there.
Your steps formed a highway through the seas with footprints on a pathway no one even knew was there. You led your people forward by your loving hand, blessed by the leadership of Moses and Aaron.
Psalm 77:19-20 TPT
God wants to lead us all down paths we didn’t know were there. He wants to take us down paths we not only see as impossible, but ones we can’t even fathom or imagine right now. We won’t be able to experience those paths unless we are willing to move forward.
“No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the LORD will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
Isaiah 58:6-10 NLT
In this scripture, God tells the Israelites that true healing and contentment come from choosing to love others. Our wounds are healed, our darkness becomes light, and we truly see God the moment we decide to move forward to take care of the people around us.
If you keep watching Encanto, you will see that Mirabel starts out stuck, feeling less than everyone else. But the more she helps each member of her family relieve pressure, come out of their shell, be themselves, and let go of the past, the more healing, confidence, and joy she gets, too.
The same is true for us. If you are feeling stuck or discouraged, look for the needs around you and do something about meeting them. It could be something as simple as asking a friend how they’re doing, helping out in your community, or sharing the load of a family member. You will find yourself happier and more refreshed, too.
Pause and reflect
What impossible things is God trying to accomplish in your life?
Who around you needs you to move forward to love them?
Talk to two or three friends about how you can let go of your fear of failure and move forward together. Take some time to pray about where God is trying to take you, and take action to love others this week!
Search out the words “along the way” in a digital Bible to read more about how God strengthens you while you’re on your journey, not before.
Read about Moses in the book of Exodus and how God strengthened him the more he took action, and didn’t let failure hold him back.