How to Handle Defeat or Failure Gracefully

I recently had a day of parenting that I would call a failure. I really love my kids so when I feel like a failure as a parent that can be really discouraging. The next morning as I was spending time with the Lord trying to restart so that I would not let my sense of defeat cause me to lose heart, I was reminded of a metaphor that helped.

How to handle failure


I have coached for a long time and currently I’m coaching a 12 and under baseball team. It is inevitable in any sport that a player is going to have a bad day. I have walked my kids through many of these situations and one common thread stands out. As the parent standing with my kids as they feel a sense of failure or defeat, my hope is always that they can simply learn from it and then move on quickly to the next opportunity for growth. It is hard to watch one of my kids remain downcast over a bad day on the field. What I love is when one of my kids can deal with their emotion of disappointment in a reasonable amount of time, and then find something to learn from and lift their chin and move on.

It sounds cliche to say that what matters from failure is how you deal with it and move on. But it is true. And I see in the Scriptures that our heavenly Father has a similar perceptive. God expects us to fail, massively, and often. Yet similar to a parent who is pulling for their child to learn, grow, and move on… God has that kind of perspective.


A passage that encourages me along these lines is Psalm 131. It is a psalm about contentment. And contentment comes from humility.

My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore. (Psalm 131)


How are you handling small or massive failures or defeat? Are you like the child after a game who keeps his head down and can’t snap out of it.. making a big deal out of something that really in the grand scheme of things is not that big of a deal? I’m grateful that although I met discouragement recently by a bad day of parenting, that once again (as usual) God’s Word helped me snap out if it and just learn and move on in hope.


  • Identify a recent time when you felt defeated. How did you handle it?
  • Have you ever tried to cheer up or encourage another person after the lost a sports game? Can you remember a time when someone you know sat in disappointment for way too long? Was that hard for you to watch? Why?
  • Consider this week how God the Father truly views failure and defeat. Like the Psalm above encourages us, try to “calm and quiet yourself like a weaned child” in the lap of your Father, and then chin up and move on. It’s probably not as big of a deal as you have made it out to be in God’s perspective.
  • Remember what Job cried out in great hope: “I know that my redeemer lives…” (Job 19:25). God is actively at work redeeming you especially in the midst of your failures and defeat.

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2 thoughts on “How to Handle Defeat or Failure Gracefully

  1. Love the insight, thanks for sharing. As a youth and family therapist I often see clients and or families struggling with failure, defeat, frustration, disappointment, hurt, etc. As you said, it is indeed hard to watch. Often times in these moments I want to do more, I want to help more, to make it better. Ironically enough, this is not helpful. What I have found to be helpful is simply being there, supporting, actively listening, seeking to understand and just being present. This allows the individual to work through the hurt, defeat, failure, disappointment, etc. and to know that they are not alone in doing so but that we cannot do it for them. As they work through it, the chin slowly rises much like the sun does on us each day. Because they worked through it, and we have not taken care of it for them, they have now learned and developed skills in coping with failure, etc. In turn, they will be able to hone and use these skills for the rest of their life and they will need them. Your thoughts on handling defeat with grace has helped me to view this from a different perspective. It seems that God allows us to work through our defeats and failures, even though He is there at all times, He does not just fix it for us, for if He did, we would learn very little and when defeat and failure occurred again we would be no more equipped to deal with it. At the same time as it is an opportunity to grow and build trust with others who support us, it is an opportunity to deepen our relationship with God, to grow in our faith and trust in Him. I love that the scripture talks about us being like a “weaned child.” This reminds me that we are wrapped in God’s love, even when we are struggling with defeat and failure. Without this love the entire struggle loses its meaning. Acting with the same love towards our children, clients, everyone…is in turn what seems to make victory in the struggle possible. Because He first loved us we can love others, therefore the glory is His.

    • Thanks Jon for your thoughts… and wow you for sure have an interesting perspective as a youth and family therapist. Thank you for offering your comments. I really value your input!

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