Ralph Barton was one of America’s top cartoonists in the early 1900s. A brilliantly gifted man who was in great demand and made a lot of money. Yet, tragically, he committed suicide before his 40th birthday in 1931.
He left a note pinned to his pillow before taking his own life: “I have had few difficulties, many friends, great successes; I have gone from wife to wife, from house to house, visited great countries of the world, but I am fed up with inventing devices to fill up twenty-four hours of the day.” Sad—isn’t it?—to hear of these stories.
Mark Twain was the father of American literature and is still considered as one of the great men of the 20th century. Shortly before his death he wrote:
A myriad of men are born; they labor and sweat and struggle;… they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other; age creeps upon them; infirmities follow; … those they love are taken from them, and the joy of life is turned to aching grief. It (the release) comes at last—the only unpoisoned gift earth ever had for them—and they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence,…a world which will lament them a day and forget them forever.
To me, it’s a sad reality that some people miss the point of discovering what really matters in life. Reminds me of another author, Henry David Thoreau, who said in 1854: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Or another way of saying the same thing is, The worst thing that can happen is to come to the end of life and discover that you haven’t really lived.
How can we be sure that when we approach the end of our lives we can look back and say: I lived a great life. Yes, there were heartbreaks, disappointments, loss and failures. But I took part in life with what was given to me by God.
That would be truly satisfying because it means we have unlocked our potential and done something worthwhile with our lives. I believe each of us have a work to do, and often we’re disappointed because we don’t know what it is yet—or we’ve given up trying and we say those two words, if only. I could have been a better person if only that had not happened. But what happens here is we blame the circumstances in which we found ourselves.
George Bernard Shaw used to say he didn’t believe in circumstances. I think he meant we are stalling when we say, I can’t do that because of the circumstances. Negative experiences will come and we need to face them. Life can be a challenge and be overwhelming at times. But do we give up at the first hint of trouble? What about having a go? Maybe you’ve been put down by others and never been encouraged to try, or you’ve lived in someone else’s shadow. Or maybe you’ve pushed yourself down.
Bring God’s Power Into Play
But remember this: there is somebody you’re supposed to be. Whether you’re 15 or 95, for the rest of your days there is something that you’re supposed to do. Built into every one of us is the desire and the need for our lives to count for something. Remember, you have more strength, more ability, talent, more possibility than you ever imagined.
- God believes in me; therefore, my situation is never hopeless.
- God walks with me; therefore, I am never alone.
- God is on my side; therefore, I cannot lose.
That’s powerful. Then there is something said by Harriet Beecher Stowe who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin—she was deeply involved in the struggle to win freedom for all slaves:
When you get into a tight place and everything seems to go against you, hang on for one minute longer. Never give up then, for that is just the place and time for the tide to turn.
God’s power is brought into action just where our power fails.
How do we bring God’s power into play? By admitting we need God’s help and turning our lives over to him. To say, I trust you God with all my life. You see, God never makes a mistake and he always cares and gives the right direction.
Lord, we yearn to become the people you want us to be. We long to live up to our great potential, but we often do not know how. Lord, help us learn to rely on your help in that search. We pray that you will bring your presence into our lives. Amen.