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What Might Have Been

John Greenleaf Whittier once wrote, “For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’” Those words are the sad commentary on many a life. People start with such great promise and have such golden opportunities. But they make the wrong choices and miss their opportunities and so never reach their potential. Their lives are the “tragedy of what might have been.” 

Some years ago I read an editorial entitled “The Dostoevsky Who Might Have Been” (Christianity Today, 1981). He was a Russian child of a surgeon, a gifted intellectual, an up-and-comer of czarist society. He was a young socialist, and his first novel was a bestseller, lauded by critics and the public alike. He was only 25 when it was published. Fame and quick success went straight to his head, and he began to drink, to party, and to carelessly criticize the czarist government.

Arrested and jailed for antigovernment activity, he was sentenced to be shot. At the last minute, the czar pardoned him and reduced his sentence to a decade of confinement in Siberia. In Siberia the New Testament was the only book allowed him, and he read it at every opportunity. Not long after his release he wrote to a woman who had befriended him during this period. He said, “To believe that there is nothing more beautiful, more profound, more sympathetic, more reasonable, more manly and more perfect than Christ, and not only is there nothing but I tell myself with jealous love that there can be nothing, besides can anyone prove to me that Christ was outside the truth and it really was so that the truth was outside Christ, then I would prefer to remain with Christ than with the truth.” Dostoevsky returned to his life in the Russia when his sentence was up and wrote four classics. But he never really grew as a Christian. He began to drink again, became a compulsive gambler, and nearly went bankrupt. He died penniless in 1881—a cautionary tale of what might have been. There is a lesson in all of this for us. It is not enough to know the story of Jesus, to have all the facts of his life. Nor is it enough to have Christian friends and move in Christian circles. Those things mean nothing. You must come to a place of personal commitment to Jesus Christ.

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Paul W. Powell - www.PaulPowellLibrary.com

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