Defeat may serve as well as victory
To shake the soul and let the glory out.
When the great oak is straining in the wind
The boughs drink in new beauty and the trunk
Sends down a deeper root on the windward side.
Only the soul that knows the mighty grief
Can know the mighty rapture. Sorrows come
To stretch out spaces in the heart of joy.
–Edwin Markham (1852-1940)
Mr. Markham–educator, author, and poet– gives us much to contemplate in just eight lines, beginning with the first seven words:
“Defeat may serve as well as victory.”
No, thank you, my spirit says. Defeat is humiliating, uncomfortable, and depressing.
Mr. Markham inspires a different perspective and a note-to-self: God may very well bring defeats into my life “to shake my soul and let the glory out.”
Reminds me of Jonah, the reluctant prophet who tried to run from God. The Lord told him to go east to Nineveh, an important city of Assyria. Instead he headed west, boarding a ship for Tarshish.
But a fierce storm churned the seas into a boil. In desperation to appease the gods, the sailors hurled Jonah overboard. Surely in those tense moments of near-drowning and then being swallowed by a great fish, Jonah felt crushing defeat. His life was over; it was just a matter of seconds.
Yet he didn’t die. Hour after hour in the utter blackness of the fish’s belly, he remained alive.
No doubt he felt shaken in his soul, and in his distress, he called to the Lord (2:1ff).
God heard his prayer and commanded the fish to vomit Jonah onto dry land.
Then the Lord repeated Jonah’s marching orders: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you” (3:1).
This time Jonah obeyed, and the glory came forth. Jonah preached and the people repented. God had compassion upon the citizens of Nineveh, and did not bring destruction upon them.
What appeared to be a mortal defeat for Jonah turned into a glorious revival for a wicked city.
Read Mr. Markham’s poem again and you’ll discover more benefits of defeat, as outcomes of:
- Straining in the wind. Pressing on during adversity results in perseverance and strength of character.
- Drinking in new beauty. During times of distress we’re more aware of God’s glorious attributes at work in our spirits–attributes such as empowerment, faithfulness, peace, and grace.
- Sending down deep roots. Defeat often brings us to new depths of surrender and submission. It also brings us to new depths of God’s love (Ephesians 3:17).
- Experiencing grief. Only those that know a mighty grief can know the mighty rapture. Like diamonds against dark velvet, joy needs a backdrop of sadness in order to be appreciated fully.
- Experiencing sorrow. Sorrows create space for joy. Joy is never so sweet and overwhelming as after sorrow.
God knows what he’s doing, and he doesn’t waste time or effort. False starts and fruitless endeavors just don’t happen with our perfect Heavenly Father.
Therefore, when defeat comes into my life or yours, we can rest assured he is accomplishing his good purpose for us.
There will be victory in defeat.
(photo and art credits: www.zazzle.co.nz.com; http://www.searchforbibletruths.blogspot.com.)