The Success of Those Who Fail

J.R. Miller

Those who succeed usually receive quite enough encouragement. But not many people speak cheering words to those who do not get along so well. Yet those are the very ones who need to be heartened on their way. Oft-times it is true that those whose work seems to come to nothing, are really doing most useful service.

When a great building is to be erected, deep excavations are made, and piles of stones are laid down in the darkness, only to be covered up and hidden out of sight by the imposing structure which rises high into the air. This foundation work receives no praise. It is not even seen by any eye. It appears, in a sense, to be wasted work. Yet we know that without it, there could be no massive building towering in majestic proportions.

Just so, there are men whose lives seem to be failures. Their work is covered up and hidden out of sight. Yet all the while they are laying foundations on which those who come after them will build. Nearly every great discovery or invention which has proved a blessing to the world, had a long history of self-denying effort and seeming failure behind its final success. Who will say that the men who wrought thus so unselfishly in obscurity without success, without reward, really failed? Their part was essential to the final result, and they should share the songs of victory which the world sings for the men who at length brought the inventions to triumphant success.

A man, prospecting in Arizona, found a remarkable natural bridge. It spans a deep canyon, forty-five feet in width. The bridge is made by a great agatized tree which lies across the gorge. Scientific men say that, many ages since, this tree was prostrated by some terrific storm and fell across the canyon. By the effects of the water and of time, it has passed through various stages of mineralization and is now a tree of solid agate. There it lies, forming an agate bridge over which men may pass from side to side.

This tree seemed to be a failure when, that day in its prime, it was broken off and hurled to the ground. But has it proved a failure? To what nobler use could it have been put than thus to become a bridge of agate, to stand for ages, on which countless human feet may cross the chasm?

This tree is an illustration of many lives which have fallen and seemed to fail but which in time have proved to be bridges over which others walk to honor, success and triumph. We are all daily passing over bridges built of the toils, sacrifices and failures of those who have gone before us. The luxury, ease and comfort which we now enjoy, cost others before us tears, pain and loss. We cross continually to our blessings and privileges, our promised lands, on bridges built for us by those whose lives seem to be failures.

Perhaps few of what the world calls its greatest successes, are really successes in God's sight. Not the man who gathers the largest fortune, or who makes the most of his own name, is greatest but he who forgets himself and gives out his life in service of love for his fellow-men. If we would do the will of God, we must oft-times turn aside from the path of human ambition.

Thus it was that the good Samaritan won his high honor, in the Master's parable. If he had kept right on, as the priest and the Levite did, he would have had no higher honor than they. He stopped, however, to give help to a suffering one, and wrote his name high in the ranks of men.

The world says men are foolish who permit themselves to fail through tenderness and sympathy; but that never is failure which comes through pausing to comfort and help another. Rather, it is such ministries as these which alone redeem an earthly life from utter failure.

The man who steels his heart against all appeals for help and goes remorselessly on to the goal of his ambition without turning aside at the calls of need, finds no blessing in that which he achieves. But he who seeks first the kingdom of God, stopping in his busiest days to do good, turning aside from his most ardent pursuits to minister to human want or sorrow, though his hands hold less of this world at the end, will be rich in the rewards of love's service.

We may set it down as an unalterable truth, that there can be no real failure when one is faithful to God and to duty. Sin is always a failure. Selfishness leaves only a blank when it is finished. The apparent success that men build up through evil-doing is but a gilded picture without substance, a mere illusion. It will vanish in the presence of the divine judgment as the morning mists before the rising sun. He who does the will of God, and he only, abides forever. No true life can ever be lost. It may sink away and seem to perish but from its grave will come an influence which will be a blessing in the world.