Life's Waste in Lost Opportunities
If a man were seen standing beside the sea, throwing gold coins or diamonds into it, we would say that he was insane. But there are many people who do continually even more insane things than this. There are those who throw away hours and days which are worth far more than coins or gems. The loss of time is one of the most pitiful wastes of life!
Another of the impoverishments of life, is through the loss of opportunities. If only we had eyes that could see, we would behold the common days coming to us, reaching out in their hands splendid gifts, which, if we accepted them, would make us rich. But too many of us see nothing of all this — we see only plain, uneventful days, with nothing for us in them. Then we fret and say that if only we had the chances which this or that person has, we would make something worthwhile of our life.
Really, the days do bring us opportunities — but we do not see them! The trouble is, we wait for something which is conspicuous and great; but it is not thus that life's opportunities usually come to us. People do not do things for us — even God does not, ordinarily. He puts hammer and pick into our hands and tells us the treasure is in the rock yonder. The opportunity we have is the opportunity to dig it out.
To the young people in school comes the opportunity to study. Gold and silver lie hidden in their text-books. But they must mine it and then get it into the furnace and refine it, and then mint it into current coin.
Opportunities do not mean great pieces of good fortune, such as a man's offering a young fellow a partnership which will yield a handsome income without anything in return; or a girl's getting an offer of marriage with a million-dollar dowry; or a bequest of a large sum of money from some deceased aunt or uncle.
Such things are rare, and not always, when they do come, are they really favors or strokes of good fortune. Oft-times they prove hinderers of true growth, and of the development of character. Most of us need to be set to work to make our own fortune. Then in the processes, we make something of our life. The owning of a million dollars does not make a man rich. If that is all he has, he is miserably poor. It is what a man is himself that counts.
The real opportunities which the common days bring are, therefore, usually the opportunities to work, to toil, to delve, to dig, to struggle.
Perhaps these are not the kind of open doors that most young people are looking for. They are watching for something that promises immediate success, something that will give them a start in life without much cost of toil or self-denial on their own part. Almost certainly they will be disappointed in such expectations, for the truest blessings of life are those which come only as the result of hard work and keen suffering.
These are the opportunities which are lost in such a pitiful way in this world. Young people see that they must pay a great price if they would enter the doors which stand open. It may be comparatively easy to make a sum of money which will give one a place among millionaires; but it is not so easy to become a millionaire in character. It may be possible for one to rise in professional life, winning his way to skill and fame and power; but to attain a character which is strong, gentle, and rich in goodness, which abounds in helpfulness and wholesome influence — is a more difficult achievement. Yet these are the real opportunities which are offered to everyone, and which many fail to seize.
The common days bring also their opportunities of service, many of which are neglected. Our Lord tells us that in the judgment there will be a great company that shall hear, "I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me." That is, the reason of their condemnation will not be wicked deeds committed — but the not doing of the acts of love which they ought to have done. Life brought to them opportunities of doing good, of being helpful to others, of relieving distress, of comforting sorrow, which they failed to use, and this failure they find has lost for them a place among those welcomed to the King's right hand.
We ought not to pass lightly over the teachings of these words of our Master. What they reveal to us, is the fearful cost of the neglecting of life's opportunities. They come to us every hour, opportunities . . .
to be kind,
to be obliging,
to be thoughtful,
to render helpful service to those who are in need,
to share a neighbor's burden,
to comfort a friend's sorrow.
For some reason we have not trained ourselves to think of these opportunities as binding duties. We know we ought not to speak lies or to commit dishonesties. We have been taught that it is a sin to dishonor parents, to swear falsely, to profane God's name — but we do not seem to regard it as sinful not to visit our neighbor when he is sick, not to give bread to him who is hungry, or a cup of cold water to him who is thirsty, not to show kindness to those who are in trouble, not to express our sympathy with those who are in grief.
These are the opportunities that the days bring to us. To neglect them is to miss our chance of making our life what it might be, what it ought to be!