By Rev. Everette Chapman
Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, the late, great pastor of New York’s Riverside Church, once preached a sermon entitled “Handling Life’s Second Bests.” Speaking of Paul’s desire during his second missionary journey to take the Gospel into Asia, but being called westward by a man in a dream saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us,” Dr. Fosdick goes on to talk about how Paul and numerous other persons down through the years have handled life’s “second bests.”
For example, Whistler, the artist, started out to be a soldier, but failed at West Point because he could not pass chemistry. His wonderful art is Whistler’s “second best.” A. J. Cronin and Lloyd C. Douglas, whose fiction works carry within them great spiritual truths and have blessed millions, both started out to be physicians but found themselves not fitted for the medical profession. Philips Brooks, the legendary pastor of Boston’s Trinity Church, set out to be a teacher, but failed miserably. Millions who either heard or have read his magnificent sermons are so glad he had to settle for “second best” and be a preacher. Multitudinous are the examples of men and women down through the centuries handling life’s second best.
Let us consider someone closer to our generation and more a product of our world – Annie Johnson Flint. She zealously longed to be a concert pianist, loving music and playing the piano during every available moment. She could probably have realized her dream, except that, barely out of her teen-age years, she began to experience the painful and joint-stiffening effects of arthritis. Her dream was shattered and her hopes were kicked in the head, but she went on.
She realized that she had a gift for writing poetry and that, even with arthritis, she was still able to hold a pen. She became a very prolific writer of Christian verse. One of those poems must have been a personal testimony of her attitude toward her life’s re-directing circumstances. You have possible read “What God Hath Promised.” Perhaps its words will be helpful to you today.
God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.
God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain, rocky and steep,
Never a river, turbid and deep.
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the day,
Grace for our trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.
May you be encouraged by her poem and by another from Howard Goodman, the Southern Gospel singer. He writes:
I’ve dreamed many dreams that never came true,
I’ve seen them vanish at dawn;
But I’ve realized enough of my dreams, thank God,
To make me want to dream on.
I’ve drunk from the cup of disappointment and pain,
I’ve gone many days without song,
But I’ve sipped enough nectar from the roses of life
To make me want to live on.
The name of this poem is “I Don’t Regret a Mile.” That would probably have been the testimony of the Apostle Paul, of those mentioned above, and of other heroic souls you have known along the way who learned how to handle, with grace and grit, “Life’s Second Bests.” God’s grace to you as you do the same.