“[My] whole life has been a succession of disappointments. I can scarcely recollect a single instance of success in anything I ever undertook.”
That quote was from John Quincy Adams near the end of his life. He had previously written, “I have done nothing to distinguish [my life] by usefulness to my country and to mankind.”
Many would be shocked to hear a former US President refer to his life as a succession of disappointments, or that he didn’t contribute anything useful to his country. But Adams was more than just the sixth United States President; he boasts the longest political resume of any of our nation’s chief executives. In addition to being a professor at Harvard, Adams served as a state senator and US senator from Massachusetts, as well as Emissary to England, Minister to the Hague, Minister to Prussia, Minister to Russia, Secretary of State, President, and finally, a member of the House of Representatives. Adams played roles in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the lead up to the Civil War.
How would anyone consider that life to have been a failure? Adams’ time in Congress was marked by divisiveness and inability to accomplish his goals. Worse, his presidency was delegitimized. In a four-way race, Adams lost both the popular and electoral votes, and was decided the winner by the states due to a backroom deal he made with the man who would become his Secretary of State; four years later, he lost a bitter reelection battle against General Andrew Jackson, who actually bested him four year earlier.
John Quincy Adams is proof that success is about what you do, not just who you are. He was the son of a President and held every position he desired, but looking back on it all, he concluded that it was all a disappointment. He sounds like King Solomon who concluded that life was ultimately vanity.
The only way to look back on life with no eternal regrets is to know that you have trusted in Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of your life. You earn multiple degrees, work for great companies, drive fast cars, and live in extravagant houses, yet still look back on life in disappointment. Only a life devoted to the King of Kings will be viewed as successful, for that is the only way to eternal satisfaction. Whatever you are doing today, make sure that Jesus is front and center of your life.
“For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”