THE WORD: The Beatitude for the Unsuccessful 

“Judah and Tamar” by Rembrandt  (circa 1650) is a painting in the collection of the Residenzgalerie, Salzburg, Austria. (Public Domain) 

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 are 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 success. 

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. Its pages teem with cheer for those who are discouraged. It sets its lamps of hope to shine in darkened chambers. It is full of comfort for those who are in sorrow. It is a book for those who have failed, for the disappointed, the defeated, and the discouraged. 

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. 

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 of righteousness. 


J.R. Miller was a pastor and former editorial superintendent of the Presbyterian Board of Publication from 1880 to 1911. His works are now in the public domain. This passage is an edited version.