George MacDonald tells of a castle in which lived an old man and his son. Though they owned the castle, they were yet very poor. They could scarcely get enough bread to keep them from starving. Yet all the time there was great wealth, which, if they had known about it, would have supplied all their wants. Through long generations there had been concealed within the castle—very valuable jewels, which had been placed there by some remote ancestor, so that if he or any of his descendants should be in need, there would be something in reserve.
For a long time the old man and his son suffered for lack of food, not knowing of the hidden treasures. At last, however, they learned in some way of the jewels, and instantly their distress was ended. Yet all the years of their pinching poverty, these treasures had lain there, ready to furnish comfort, if only they had known of them.
This story illustrates the case of many Christians. They are living in their Father’s house, in which are concealed the rich treasures of Divine love. Yet many of God’s children seem not to know of these treasures, and live in distress. There really never is any reason why a child of God should worry about anything.
We have this teaching in plainest words in the Sermon on the Mount. Christ gives a number of strong reasons for not worrying.
One of the reasons is that anxiety about food and clothing and the world’s things—is serving mammon, and we cannot serve mammon and serve God at the same time. It is trusting in money to provide for our needs, instead of in God. When money fails, then we are in distress. George MacDonald says again, “How often do we look upon God as our last and feeblest resource! We go to Him because we have nowhere else to go!” We feel safer when mammon’s abundance fills the pantry and the wardrobe—than when mammon threatens to fail and we have only God.
Another reason against worry is that God, having given us our life—is certainly able to provide for our life’s needs. The life is more than its provision. What a strange, mysterious thing it is, this thing which we call life! It is more wonderful than the mountains and the stars.
Think of physical life—that beats in the heart, and pulses in the veins, and stirs in all the fibers.
Think of mental life—that knows, and remembers, and feels, and chooses, and loves, and suffers; that can dart across seas and fly to the skies!
Think of spiritual life—that can climb the stairways of light and commune with God; that can worship; that can be fashioned into Christ’s image; that is capable of heavenly blessedness; and that shall live as long as God lives. God has made this wonderful life—can He not provide for it the piece of bread and the cup of water it daily needs for its daily sustenance? Why, then, should we be anxious for these things?
Another reason why we should not worry the great Teacher draws from nature. God feeds the birds and clothes the flowers. “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Is the teaching that since the birds neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, therefore we should put forth no exertion to provide for our own needs? No; the birds do the best they know, but God has given us power by which we can gather for ourselves.
It is not an untoiling life—which our Lord enjoins. Curse rests not upon work—but upon idleness. The lesson from the untoiling birds is, not that we are not to work—but that we are to fill our own place as the birds fill theirs—and that then God will take care of us. God’s children are better than His birds. Birds have no soul, no mental faculties. They cannot think nor reason. They do not wear God’s image. They are not God’s children. God is the birds’ Creator—but not their Father. An earthly father will do more for his children—than for his hens. A mother will give more thought to her baby—than to her canary. Just so, our heavenly Father will provide more surely and more carefully for His children—than for His birds.
A like lesson Jesus teaches from the flowers. God clothes the lilies in loveliness far surpassing any adornment which the finest skill that art can produce. We are better than flowers. They live but for a day, and their rich beauty fades. They are lovely—but there is no soul in them, and they have no future. If our Father lavishes so much beauty on perishing plants, is there any ground for fear that He will not clothe His own dear children? Like the lily, we should grow into sweet beauty wherever God places us, not complaining, not vexing ourselves with anxious care, fulfilling God’s purpose and doing God’s will.
Another of the reasons Jesus gives why we should not worry—is the uselessness of it. We cannot by being anxious about our height, for example, make ourselves any taller. We cannot by worry change the color of our hair—unless it be that we vex ourselves until our hair becomes grey! When we think of it, a great deal of the worrying that is so common—is over matters that we have no power to change! There is much fretting about the weather. There are many people who never get it just as they want it. They are always complaining and finding fault. But who ever heard of such fretting changing the weather? It were better far just to accept it as it comes, and be cheerful whichever way the wind blows, and whether it is hot or cold, rainy or dry.
There are many people whose condition in life disappoints them. They are poor and have to work hard to provide for their families. They have troubles and trials. They meet difficulties. Sometimes one can change one’s circumstances by making an earnest effort. That is good and right. God wants us to make the most of our life. He would not have us live on in unpleasant conditions which with a little energy and taste—we might transform into comfort. If the roof leaks, we ought to mend it. If the fence is broken and our neighbor’s cattle get into our garden, we ought to repair the fence. If the chimney smokes, we ought to have the flues cleaned out. There are many worries of this class which we ought to have sense enough to cure for ourselves, without vexing our souls with worry over them.
But there are many things, not just to our mind, which we cannot alter. Many young people fret over the limitations of their home, the narrowness of their opportunities. They think that if only they had the home and the opportunities of some envied neighbor, they would get on so much better and make so much more of their life! They have to work constantly on the farm or in the shop. They have no time for reading. Their home is without cheerfulness. They love it, of course—but it lacks the privileges they crave.
Now, what good can ever come from worrying over such things? The noble way is to accept the conditions that are hard—is to live cheerfully in them. Hard work is made easier—when one can sing at it. Burdens are made lighter—when one’s heart is full of joy. When we acquiesce in any unpleasant experience, we have conquered the unpleasantness. A thoughtful writer says: “The soul loses command of itself when it is impatient, whereas, when it submits without a murmur, it possesses itself in peace, and possesses God. When we acquiesce in an evil, it is no longer such. Why make a real calamity of it by resistance? Peace does not dwell in outward things—but within the soul. We may preserve peace of heart in the midst of bitterest pain—if we remain trusting and submissive. Peace in this life springs from acquiescence, even in disagreeable things, not in exemption from bearing them.”
Besides, the very hardness of our condition—is ofttimes that from which the greatest blessing comes. The world’s best men—have not been grown in easy circumstances. Pampered, petted boys—do not usually make the heroes and the great men of their generation. Hardship in early years, nine times out of ten, is that which makes a man strong and stalwart and a power among men when he reaches his prime.
Herodotus wrote: “It is a law of nature that faint-hearted men should be the fruit of luxurious countries; for we never find that the same soil produces both delicacies and heroes.” Therefore, instead of worrying over the rough, stern, and severe things in his environment, a healthy, wholesome boy ought to set to work to master them, and in mastering them—get strength and victoriousness for his own life.
A jeweler brought a large and beautiful onyx to an engraver of precious stones. “See how clear, pure, and transparent this stone is,” said the jeweler. “What a fine one for your skill, were it not for this one fatal blemish!” Then he showed him at one point an underlying tinge of iron-rust, which, as he said, made the stone almost worthless.
But the engraver took it, and with matchless skill and delicacy wrought upon the stone, carving a graceful figure. By most ingenious and patient use of his engraving tool, he fashioned it so that what had seemed an irreparable blemish was made into a leopard-skin, on which rested the foot of the lovely figure—the contrasting colors enhancing the beauty of the lovely cameo.
This illustrates what God would have us do with the hard things in our condition. We think we can never make anything of our life, with all the discouraging things there are in our lot. Really, however we can make our life all the nobler, greater, stronger, more beautiful—by means of the very things which we think ruin us. We can make them yield new strength and beauty, for our character.
This is the way to treat the hard, discouraging things in life. It is useless to fret over them—fretting will never remove them, and it only weakens our energy and mars our life! But if we meet them with undismayed courage and persistent resolve, we shall conquer them, and in conquering them carve royalty of character and noble worth of ourselves.
Another of our Master’s reasons why we should not worry—is that worrying is a sin. He says that the heathen worry. But they know no better. They have never learned about God and His fatherhood, and it is no wonder if they are anxious sometimes about the needs of their lives. But we know what God is. We have learned to call Him our Father. If we believe what we say we believe concerning our privileges as God’s children—we ought not to worry. Worry is doubting God, unbelief. It dishonors Him whose love is infinite and eternal, and whose promises are so wide and full.
For, really, as Jesus tells us again—we have nothing to do with the care of our own life. We have only one thing to do: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” The rest is God’s responsibility, “And all these things shall be added unto you.” When we grow anxious about food or clothing or shelter—we are taking the care of our life out of our Father’s hand. We should learn to put the emphasis on our own duty. We never can be too careful at this point. We must leave no duty undone, no task neglected. We must not seek to care of ourselves by sinful means, by living dishonestly. Our part is to be true, loyal, and faithful. Then we may leave all the rest in God’s hands.
At the close of His wonderful talk about worry, our Lord gives us a wonderful secret. He tells us that we should keep the fences up between the days. We must not bring tomorrow’s cares—into today. The morrow must look to its own matters. When its cares actually come—it will be soon enough to take them up. This is a golden lesson—living by the day. We should learn it!
“One day at a time. A burden too great
To be borne for two—can be borne for one.
Who knows what will enter tomorrow’s gate?
While yet we are speaking, all may be done.
“One day at a time. But a single day,
Whatever its load, whatever its length;
And there’s a bit of precious Scripture to say
That according to each—shall be our strength.”
He who learns the lesson, living without worrying, has mastered life. He is ready then to live sweetly and most effectively. It is said that the electro-dynamo is well-near perfect in its conservation of energy. Ninety-five percent of the force it generates is utilized—goes into light or power. If we can learn so to live so that only five percent of our energy is expended in friction or needless waste, we shall have learned indeed, in one sense at least—to make the most of our life. Many people have not learned to live in this economical way. They waste in anxious care—what they ought to use in lighting the world with their peace, or helping others with their strength. For nothing wastes life’s energies more rapidly and more needlessly, than worry.
~ J. R. Miller, 1894