Though born to poverty in 1844 Germany and orphaned at the young age of two years old, Karl Benz dreamed of success. But throughout his formative years and early adulthood, no one would find the signposts of a prosperous way.
Only hardship and adversity marked his path.
Karl showed promise as a student, but following graduation he proved unsuccessful. His unhappiness and restlessness is seen in a series of professional endeavors: locksmith, draftsman, locomotive designer, scales designer, bridge-builder, and both iron- and sheet metal-manufacturer.
None of these jobs was fulfilling. Karl’s true passion was the development of a “horseless carriage.” He earned a patent in 1876 for a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine. He went on to gain patents for a speed-regulation (acceleration-braking) system, ignition system, spark plugs, water radiator, gear transmission, clutch, carburetor, and axel-pivot steering—all the components of his dream. But poverty still hounded Karl and he and his wife Berta spent many years penniless, barely able to eat.
Then, in 1885 things began to come together—particularly for his “motor wagon.” His “motor wagon” was the first automobile in the world, for which he earned a patent in 1886. He began marketing the automobile later that year.
This was not the end of Karl Benz’s days of adversity. His “under-powered” invention required many refinements. Remarkably, pharmacies were the only location that sold gasoline, because in small quantities it was a useful cleaner. Sales remained disappointing for more than a decade. Forced by these circumstances, he abandoned the first car-manufacturing company he founded and merged with other companies. But his persistence through affliction paid off. To this day name and legacy of Karl Benz is synonymous with cutting-edge technology in automobile manufacturing.
And, as it turned out, all those unfulfilling jobs paid off as well. For, through them all, Karl Benz was unwittingly gaining the accumulated technological knowledge and skills that would all converge in the making of the first automobile.
Desiring a Sign
We all yearn for success and hunger for some sign of God’s blessing on our lives. If our way prospers, we conclude that “the Lord is with us.” But if detours, roadblocks, bumps and hills mar our journey, we immediately doubt that God’s presence and blessing is with us.
Remember Joseph in the book of Genesis. Despite Joseph’s trials, slavery, obscurity, and imprisonment, the Scripture tells us, “the LORD was with Joseph” (Genesis 39:2, 21, 23). And as Joseph looked back on all those hardships and undesirable jobs, he conclude, “What others intended for evil, God intended for good” (Genesis 50:20). Karl Benz could have said the same thing. His hard knocks and unfulfilling occupations ultimately resulted in his success. It will be the same testimony of every faithful child of God. For what we so often call “curses” and “bad omens” are in reality the very tools and building blocks through which God will accomplish His will and purpose in us. They are blessings in disguise.
Dear Father in heaven, as Your beloved child, please remind me that “those whom the Lord loves He disciplines and corrects” and “if we are without discipline … then we are not true sons.” My life is filled with the signposts of Your presence and love. Please, dear Lord, open my eyes to them. Amen.