There may be no Bible beatitude saying expressly,
"Blessed are the unsuccessful," but there are beatitudes, which are
equivalent to this. We take these from our Lord's own lips, "Blessed are
those who mourn," "Blessed the poor," "Blessed are those who are
persecuted," "Blessed are you when men shall revile you," "Blessed are you
when men shall hate you."
Then many other Scripture passages have similar teaching.
Evidently not all blessings lie in the sunshine; many of them hide in the
shadows. We do not read far in the Bible, especially in the New Testament,
without finding that earthly prosperity is not the highest good that
God has for us. Our Lord speaks very plainly about the perils of worldly
The Bible is indeed a book for the unsuccessful.
Its sweetest messages are to those who have fallen. It is the book of
love and sympathy. It is like a mother's bosom to lay one's head upon—in the
time of distress or pain. Its pages teem with cheer for those
who are discouraged. It sets its lamps of hope to shine in
darkened chambers. It reaches out its hands of help to the fainting,
and to those who have fallen. It is full of comfort for those who
are in sorrow. It has its many special promises for the needy,
the poor, and the bereft. It is a book for those who have
failed, for the disappointed, the defeated, and the
It is this quality in the Bible which makes it so dear to
the heart of humanity. If it were a book only for the strong, the
successful, the victorious, the unfallen, those who have no sorrow, who
never fail, the whole, the happy—it would not find such a welcome wherever
it goes in the world. So long as there are tears and sorrows, and broken
hearts, and crushed hopes, and human failures, and lives burdened and bowed
down, and spirits sad and despairing—so long will the Bible be a good book
believed in as a God-inspired book, and full of inspiration, light, help,
and strength for earth's weary ones.
The God of the Bible is the God of those who have not
succeeded. Wherever there is a weak, stumbling Christian, unable to walk
alone—to him the divine heart goes out in tender thought and
sympathy; and the divine hand is extended to support him, and keep
him from falling. Whenever a Christian has fallen, and lies in defeat or
failure—over him bends the heavenly Father in kindly pity, to raise him up
and to help him to begin again.
Some people think that the old Mosaic Law is cold and
loveless; but as we look through it, we find many a word which tells of the
gentle heart of God. Every seventh year the people were to let their
farms rest—so that the poor might eat the fruits that grew upon them. They
were taught to be mindful of the needy in every harvest-time. They were not
to reap too closely the corners of their fields, nor glean their vineyards
too carefully, picking off every grape. They were to leave
something for the poor and the stranger. Thus the needy were God's
special and particular care.
In Eastern lands, the widow and the orphan
are peculiarly desolate and defenseless. But God declares himself their
particular helper and defender. In the midst of dreary
chapters of laws, we come upon this gleam of divine gentleness. "You shall
not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way,
and they cry at all to me, I will surely hear their cry; and my wrath shall
wax hot." Sheaves were to be left in the field, olives on the tree, grapes
on the vine, for the fatherless and the widow. The God of the Bible has a
partiality of kindness for those who have lost the human guardians of their
Wherever there is weakness in anyone, the strength of God
is especially revealed. "The Lord preserves the simple." The simple are
those who are innocent and childlike, without skill or cunning to care for
themselves, those who are unsuspecting and trustful, who are not armed by
their own wisdom and are against the wiles of cruel people. The Lord takes
care of these, defends them, keeps and guards them. Indeed, the safest
people in the world are those who have no power to take care of themselves.
Their very defenselessness, is their best protection—for then God himself
becomes their guardian.
There is a Turkish proverb, which says, "The nest of the
blind bird is built by God." Have you ever seen a blind child in a home? How
helpless is it? It is at the mercy of any cruelty, which an evil heart may
inspire. It is an open prey to all dangers. It cannot take care of itself.
Yet how lovingly and safely it is sheltered! The mother's love seems
tenderer for the blind child—than for any of her other children. The
father's thought is not so gentle for any of the strong ones as for
this helpless one. As one says, "Those sealed eyes, those tottering
feet, those outstretched hands—have a power to move those parents to labor
and care and sacrifice, such as the strongest and most beautiful of the
household does not possess."
This picture gives us a hint of the special, watchful
care of God for his weak children. Their very helplessness of His children,
is their strongest plea to the divine heart. The God of the Bible is the God
of the weak, the unsheltered. He sends his strongest angels to guard them.
The children's angels, the keepers of the little ones, the weak ones, the
simple, appear always as heaven's privileged ones before God.
The God of the Bible is the God also of the
broken-hearted. "The Lord is near the brokenhearted." Psalm 34:18. "He heals
the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." Psalm 147:3. The world cares
little for the broken hearts. Indeed, people oftentimes break hearts by
their cruelty, their falseness, their injustice, their coldness, and then
move on as heedlessly as if they had trodden only on a worm. But God cares.
Broken-heartedness attracts him. The plaint of grief on earth—draws him down
Physicians in their rounds do not stop at the homes of
the well—but of the sick. Surgeons on the field of battle do
not pay attention to the unhurt, the unwounded; they bend over those who
have been torn by shot or shell, or pierced by sword or saber. So it is with
God in his movements through this world; it is not to the whole and the
well—but to the wounded and stricken, that he comes with sweetest
tenderness. Jesus said of his mission: "He has sent Me to bind up the
broken-hearted." Isaiah 61:1
We look upon trouble as misfortune. We say the
life is being destroyed, which is passing through adversity. But the truth
which we find in the Bible, does not so represent suffering. God is a
repairer and restorer of the hurt and ruined life. He takes the reed which
is bruised—and by his gentle skill makes it whole again, until it grows into
fairest beauty. When a branch of a tree is injured, the whole tree begins at
once to send of its sap to the wounded part to restore it. When a violet is
crushed by a passing foot, air and sun and cloud and dew all at once begin
their ministry of healing, giving of their life to bind up the wound of the
little flower. So Heaven does with human hearts when they are wounded. The
love, pity, and grace of God minister sweet blessing of comfort and healing,
to restore that which is broken.
Much of the most beautiful life in this world, comes out
of sorrow. As "fair flowers bloom upon rough stalks," so many of the fairest
flowers of human life grow upon the rough stalks of suffering. We see that
those who in heaven wear the whitest robes, and sing the loudest songs of
victory, are they who have come out of great tribulation. Heaven's
highest places are filling, not from earth's homes of glad festivity and
tearless joy—but from its chambers of pain; its valleys of struggle where
the battle is hard; and its scenes of sorrow, where pale cheeks are wet with
tears, and where hearts are broken. The God of the Bible—is the God of the
bowed down, whom he lifts up into his strength. Earth's failures are
not failures—if God is in them.
The same is true of spiritual life. God is the God of
those who fail. Not that he loves those who stumble and fall, better than
those who walk erect without stumbling; but he helps them more. The weak
believers get more of his grace than those who are strong believers. There
is a special divine promise, which says, "My divine power is made perfect in
weakness." That is, we are not weakest when we think ourselves weakest; nor
are we strongest when we think ourselves strong. God's power is made perfect
Human consciousness of weakness gives God room to work.
Human power is made perfect in weakness. He cannot work with our strength,
because in our self-conceit we make no room for him. Before he can put his
strength into us, we must confess that we have no strength of our own. When
we are conscious of our own insufficiency, we are ready to receive of the
divine sufficiency. Thus our very weakness is an element of strength. Our
weakness is an empty cup—which God fills with his own strength.
You may think that your weakness unfits you for
noble, strong, beautiful living—or for sweet, gentle, helpful serving. You
wish you could get clear of it. It seems to burden you—an ugly spiritual
deformity. But really it is something which—if you give it to Christ—he can
transform into a blessing, a source of His power. The friend by your side,
whom you envy because he seems so much stronger than you are—does not get so
much of Christ's strength as you do. You are weaker than him—but your
weakness draws to you divine power, and makes you strong.
There should be unspeakable comfort and inspiration for
us, in this truth. For example, we have not been successful in our life. We
have tried hard—but have not been successful. This is the way it seems, at
least on the earthly side. But if, meanwhile, we have been true to God, and
faithful in duty, there has been an unfailing inner prosperity, which we do
not see. This world's affairs are but the scaffolding of our real
life, and within the rough exterior of earthly failure—there has risen
continually the noble building of a godly character.
A little story poem tells of an eager throng of youth
setting out in a race. One among them excelled all the others in courage,
strength, and grace, and gave early promise of winning. The way was long and
hard, and the goal far away—but still this favorite held his place in the
"But ah, what folly! See, he stops
To raise a fallen child,
To place it out of dangers way,
With kiss and warning mild.
A fainting comrade claims his care–
Once more he turns aside;
Then stays his strong young steps to be
A feeble woman's guide.
And so, wherever duty calls,
or sorrow, or distress,
He leaves his chosen path, to aid,
To comfort, and to bless."
So at least when the race is over and the victors are
crowned, some with fame's laurels, some with beauteous flowers, some with
gold circlets on their brows—all unknown, unheeded, with empty hands and
uncrowned head, stands this youth, the real winner of the race. Earth had no
crown for him—but on his face shines heaven's serene and holy light.
This tells the story of thousands of earth's failures.
Those who might have won highest honors among men, turn aside from their
ambitions to do God's work in the world. They stop to bless others, to
comfort sorrows, to cheer loneliness, to lift up fallen ones, to help the
weak. In the race with the world's men, they lose—but in God's sight they
are the real winners. Angels applaud them, and Christ will reward and crown
The world has honor enough for those who succeed. There
are plenty of books about men and women who became famous. There is glory
for those who began among the ranks of the poor, and climbed upward to the
highest places. There are poets enough to sing the story of those who win in
the battle. But the Bible wreaths its laurel chaplets for the
unsuccessful. It sings the songs of those who fail. Its hands of help are
under the fallen. Its brightest crowns are for those whom earth passes by.
When the end comes, and life's revelations are all made—then it will appear
that many who in this world have been thrust aside, or trampled down in the
dust, or even burned at the stake, or nailed on crosses—have been exalted to
highest honor in the life beyond earth.
We would better, therefore, learn to measure life by true
standards. No one has really failed—who has lived for God, who has lived
according to God's law, who has wrought on the temple of truth, in the cause