Chapter 89

  1. Disappointments

It is sometimes of God’s mercy that men in the eager pursuit of ambitious plans are baffled; for they are very like a train on down grade—pulling on the brake is not pleasant, but it keeps the car on the track. We mount to heaven mostly on the ruins of our cherished schemes, finding in our failures our real successes.

Disappointments seem to be the lot of man. From the little child with golden hair attempting to catch the glancing sunbeams to the old man who, with whitened locks and bent frame, pursues some scheme of wealth, disappointment is the almost inevitable consequence. Well it is for us that the future is veiled from our eyes, else we would weary of the trials and allurements that make up the sum of our existence. The child looks forward to manhood; his dreams are speculative; the man looks back to childhood, and thinks of the happy days of old. From the time he sits on his mother’s knee, with the sunlight streaming in through the open window, until the last hours of life, when the sunlight glances in through closed shutters, he is playing with shadows.

And one of the saddest thoughts that come to us in life is the thought that in this bright, beautiful, joy-giving world of ours there are so many shadowed lives. If disappointment came only to the lot of the sinning, even then we might drop a tear over him whose errors wrought their own recompense. But it is not so. The most pure lives are sometimes those that are the fullest of disappointments. With one it is the wreck of a great ambition. He has builded his ship, and launched it on the sea of life freighted with the richest jewels of his strength and manhood. Behold, it comes back to him beaten, battered, and torn by the fury of the gale—the wreck of a first trial.

Many are disappointed because they do not look for happiness and success either in the right spirit or by the proper methods. There is a legend told of a knight who,—

“In the brave days of old,”

journeyed far away in search of the Holy Grail. He engaged in great pursuits. He sought the most arduous undertakings. But failing to seek in the right spirit his search and his efforts were in vain. At length, wearied and disappointed, he sought his native land. Here, in the work of daily, trifling duties, humbly seeking to do what was right, he unexpectedly found that for which he had so long searched. In life we all seek happiness and success. There is but one way in which we can succeed; when we admit that happiness is but a state of the mind, and that success is the faithful performance of known duties, then shall we acquire both. Though we may wander the wide world over, and gather wealth and fame, they will be found impotent to confer happiness, and life to us will seem full of disappointments; but it is so simply because we failed to seek for life in that spirit of quiet content which alone conducts us to its portals.

It never yet happened to any man since the beginning of the world, nor ever will, to have all things according to his desires. And there never was any one yet to whom fortune was not at some time opposite and adverse. Those who risk nothing can, of course, lose nothing; sowing no hopes they can not suffer from the blight of disappointment. But let him who is enlisted for the war expect to meet the foe. It is with life’s troubles as with the risks of the battle-field; there is always less of aggregate danger to the party who stands firm than to the one who gives way. To give way to disappointments is to invite defeat. To bravely cast about for means to resist them is to put them to flight, and out of temporary misfortune to lay the foundation of a more glorious success. Send disappointments to the winds; take life as it is, and, with a strong will, make it as near what it should be as possible.

Dark and full of disappointments may be our lot, and we may not be able to fathom the reason for them; but if we can only bring ourselves to see that they are for our good, that we need their chastening influence, all will be well in the end. In the trials of life we must look more for consolation within than from without. The surest consolations of life are those which we thus derive from our own thoughts. For this end it matters not so much whether we spend time in study or toil; the thoughts of the mind should go out and reach after higher good. In this manner we may improve ourselves till our thoughts come to be sweet companions that shall lead us along the paths of virtue. Thus we may grow better within, whilst the cares of life, the losses and the disappointments lose their sharp thorns, and the journey of life be made comparatively pleasant and happy.

It is generally known that he who expects much will be often disappointed; yet disappointment seldom cures us of expectations. It is human to err; so it is the lot of mortals to be disappointed, for never yet did error secure the end wished. It is, however, the better philosophy to take things calmly and endeavor to be content with our lot. We may at least add some rays of sunshine to our path if we earnestly endeavor to dispel the clouds of discontent that may arise in our bosom, and by so doing enjoy more fully the bountiful blessing that God gives to his humblest creatures. The great secret of avoiding disappointment is not to expect too much. Despair follows immoderate hopes, as the higher a body rises the heavier it falls to the ground.

Time is the great consoler of the world, inasmuch as he heals our sorrows and trials. But time, in dashing to pieces our most cherished plans and brightest dreams, also brings us to many disappointments which in turn disappear with the passage of years. While sagacity contrives, patience matures, and labor industriously executes, disappointment laughs at the curious fabric formed by so many efforts and gay with so many brilliant colors, and when the artist imagines the work arrived at the moment of completion, brushes away the beautiful fabric, and leaves nothing behind.

We thus see that life is, indeed, a variegated scene, full of trials and full of joys—bright dreams, some fulfilled, more disappointed. What is the lesson for us to learn from this? Perhaps the truest philosophy is not to expect much, to be moderate in our plans and hopes. In youth especially are we apt to be over sanguine. Reflect that life is full of disappointments, that it is vain for you to expect to escape them. But also learn to go forward with a brave face. You may fail, but from this failure you can organize future success. Because disappointed in one particular plan, it is no reason why you should abandon all plans, and settle down to the conviction that life itself is a failure. Show yourself a man, and rise superior to misfortune, and you will be rewarded by a final victory made more glorious by temporary discouragement, just as the sun bursting from behind the clouds lights up the landscape with a more glorious light because of the storms of the morning.

, In, pager

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