committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

Human Care Transferred to God
Octavius Winslow, D.D.

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you— 1 Peter 5:7.

Were we to take the world’s estimate of the real value and happiness of a life of faith in God as the true one, how gloomy, joyless, and forlorn a life would it appear! The world imagines that there is nothing substantial, bright, or social in the religion of Christ—no reality, sunshine, or companionship! But how mistaken! We cite, as disproving this view, the precept we propose in this chapter to illustrate and enforce, which enjoins the transfer of human care to God. Where, in the world’s wilderness, grows the flower of heart’s ease as it blooms and blossoms here? “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” How full of soothing and repose are these words! What cares have they lightened,—what anxieties have they removed,—what burdens have they unclasped,—and what springs of joy and comfort and hope have they unsealed in many a sad and oppressed heart! But do you not, beloved reader, need to be put in constant remembrance of this divine secret of rest amidst toil, of repose amidst disquietude, of soothing amidst corroding cares, and of confidence and hope in the midst of change and depression? Bewildered and oppressed by the multitude of anxious thoughts within you, is there not a danger of being so absorbed by the care as to overlook the Caretaker? to forget the heart’s ease in the overwhelming of the heart’s anxiety? Verily we think so. Hagar, pining with thirst, and blinded by grief, saw not the well of water flowing at her side. The disciples in the storm, filled with alarm, and absorbed by fear, recognized not the Lord Jesus walking to them upon the waves which threatened the foundering of their vessel. Thus often is it with us—thus may it be now with you. We look at the want, and not at Him who supplies it; at the storm, and not at Him who controls it; at the care, and not at Him who assumes it. Is not the voice of the Lord mightier than the voice of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea? Is not the Caretaker greater than the care itself? Yet how we limit the Holy One, and magnify and multiply our cares, anxieties, and sorrows! But for the immutability of our redeeming God, whose unseen hand guides, and whose power, almost insensible to ourselves, sustains us, our care would consume us. How often we are upheld, we scarcely know by whom; kept in peace, we scarcely know how; preserved in safety, we scarcely know why. But “the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him;” and, sooner or later, we learn that Jesus has done it all, and has done it for His own glory. Fain would I, beloved reader, proffer you a little help heavenward by inciting you to this transfer of anxious thought and chafing care to God. Lightened a little of your burden, with a more trustful heart and gladsome spirit you will speed your way homeward to that heaven of perfect repose, upon whose threshold you will leave the last anxious thought, and lay down the last earthly care, your weary, panting soul pillowed in eternal repose.

The world through which we pass heavenward—and oh, forget not, Christian pilgrim, it is a passage soon passed—is a world laden and crushed with care. Earthly care confronts us at every step, and in all whom we meet. The knitted brow, the restless eye, the compressed lip, the fevered expression, the bated breath, are as true an index of the mind oppressed with anxious thought, the heart shaded with human sorrow, as the dial is of the sun’s altitude. It is true the great device of the world is to conceal its care from others. But its transient gleam of artificial joy—the forced smile, the excited laugh, the unnatural levity, which imparts an air of happiness and freedom from eating care—but betray to the keen, penetrating eye of the spiritual observer that inward restlessness of the spirit, that lowering anxiety of mind, which can ill be concealed.

“If every man’s internal care
Were written on his brow,
How many would our pity share
Who move our envy now!”

But it is of the care peculiar to the Lord’s people that we particularly speak. And here we must be cautious to distinguish between the carefulness that is proper in a child of God and the carefulness which is the result of a distrust of God—the offspring of unbelief. We are to be careful, undoubtedly, to maintain good works, or our faith is vain; to take care of our own house, or we shall be found worse than the infidel; we are to care for the interests and prosperity of Christ’s Church, or we ignore our individual membership; we are to be careful to walk holily and circumspectly, as followers of the Lamb, or we dishonour Christ. Now this implies a heavy weight of holy care, unslumbering vigilance, and unceasing prayerfulness on our part. These are cares which especially appertain to, and are inseparable from, our Christianity. But let us consider that state of anxious carefulness which so much weighs down the spirit, so beclouds our spiritual joy, and is so corrosive of the best, holiest, and finest feelings of the soul, but which a simple, childlike confidence in our heavenly Father’s promise, care, and love should chasten and moderate, yea, entirely remove. Hence the precept, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”

We may attempt to classify, but it would be impossible to enumerate, the cares which contribute so much to the mental anxiety and depression of the Christian. The cares of this life enter deeply into the carefulness of which the Lord seeks to lighten us. In proportion to the spiritual tone of the mind, and the closeness of the heart’s converse with God and heavenly realities, will be the tenderness of the believer to the chafing and pressure of temporal cares. The more heavenly we grow, the more acutely sensitive do we become to the encroachment and influence of earth and earthly things. In this connection let me remark that I fear too little prayerful consideration is felt by the Church in behalf of her Christian men of business. Sustaining responsibilities, burdened with cares, depressed by anxieties well-nigh crushing,—earnestly desirous, and that very desire intensifying their feelings, that integrity and uprightness should preserve them, that by no faltering, no receding, no departure from the strictest line of Christian consistency should the cause of Christ be dishonored and their Christian character be compromised,—are they sufficiently borne upon our sympathies and prayers? Do we, in measure, make their burdens, their dangers, their anxieties our own? Do we ask for them of God the grace that will keep them in prosperity, and for the strength and comfort that will sustain and soothe them under the pressure and perils of anxious care? Does the Church of God sufficiently sympathize with her Christian merchants? May not the low standard of commercial morality, which in some departments of trade has obtained in this and other lands,—the sad defection from honesty, probity, and uprightness which has marked the business transactions of some whose names have stood high in the Church’s roll,—the frauds, the defalcations, the nefarious dealings,—be traceable, in a great degree, to the Church’s unfaithfulness in her duty respecting them? Verily we think so. Oh, let us pray more for godly men of business! Their snares are many; their perils are great, their cares are crushing, their anxieties are absorbing! They demand our Christian sympathy, our tender forbearance, our unceasing supplications, that, in all the temptations and intricacies, perils and anxieties, by which their path is begirt, God may hold them up, and conduct them through,—kept from the low arts of trade,—from the questionable practices of the world,—from an inordinate anxiety for wealth,—from every the slightest deviation from the straightest and strictest line of Christian integrity, from the taint and evil of the world, to the honor of the Church and the glory of their Lord. Christian brethren, we proffer you our sympathy, and breathe on your behalf our prayers! You may often lay an anxious, aching brow on your pillow at night, not knowing how you will meet the stern claims of the coming day,—your commercial standing—dearer still, your Christian character—at stake. Be still! There is ONE who careth for you! Compose yourself to rest, in the calm assurance that on the morrow God will crown your obedience to the precept by His fulfillment of the promise—“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” Thus, then, our temporal cares, to us often so depressing, are objects of God’s consideration. If godliness has the promise of the life that now is, it follows that no earthly care that saddens the heart or shades the brow is beneath His notice or regard. How many a child of God is struggling with large domestic claims and but slender revenues! Who can tell the troubled thoughts, the anxious feelings; the painful forebodings that pass through that mind! One only knows it. To Him there is nothing little, nothing insignificant, nothing beneath His notice and regard. Are you a widow, with narrowed income and heavy demands? Are you an orphan, combating with loneliness and want? Are you a man of business, sustaining heavy liabilities, involved in perilous investments, and weighed down by ceaseless anxiety and care? Vailed from every eye but God’s may be your pressure. These worldly engagements, these temporal cares and anxieties, are not too mean for Him.

Then, there often presses upon the heart the anxiety to know the path of duty in which we should walk. This is no small care to the child of God. We are often brought to a stand-still, and are, as it were, at our wits’ end. Two paths, intersecting each other, diverging to the right and to the left, confront us, and we are perplexed to know which one we should take. Oh for a voice, distinct and familiar, behind us, saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it!” In proportion, too, to the tenderness of conscience, and to the closeness and softness of the walk, will be the intense anxiety of the mind to know, and do, and even suffer the will of God. If such be the case with you, be assured that, though your faith and patience may be tried, the Lord will not leave you long in darkness and uncertainty. If the question be, How shall I know the will of my heavenly Father in this matter? you shall not in the end mistake it; for God cares for you.

But there are greater cares than these—the spiritual cares of the soul—which often press heavily upon the heart. You are anxious to know that you have an interest in Christ’s redeeming love,—that your name is written among the living in Jerusalem,—that your sins are pardoned,—that your person is adopted, accepted, saved,—and that after death you will reign with Jesus for ever. You are anxious, too, that your Christian walk should be obedient, perceptive, believing; that you should be more heavenly-minded, growing in knowledge, and grace, and divine conformity to the will of God and the image of Jesus. Ah! these are cares before which all others vanish into insignificance! There are no anxieties, no cares, no burdens like those which touch the present and future interests and well-being of the soul! How many a man would freely and joyfully part with all his worldly possessions for spiritual peace of mind, and for an assured hope of the future! Oh to be quite sure that we are SAVED! What is rank—what is wealth—what is learning—what is fame in comparison with this?—the dust, the foam, the dream, the shadow! Anxious soul! think you that you nurse that spiritual anxiety alone? that no eye is wakeful to see, that no ear is bending to listen, that no heart is interested to sympathize? Ah, yes! He who travailed in sorrow for your salvation is personally, tenderly cognizant of the anxious, the profoundly anxious, desire of your soul that there may not rest the shadow of a shade of doubt and uncertainty upon the fact of its everlasting safety. You are not alone in this soul-exercise. Jesus is with you. The travel of your heart after him, the panting of your spirit for His salvation, the longing of your soul for an assured interest in His love,—your tears, your sighs, your desires, your prayers, your watchings,—awaken in the heart of your Saviour the deepest, tenderest response. Ah! if the cares, anxieties, and solicitude you feel for your soul lie upon your heart with a pressure so intense as to shade the sunshine of life by day, and to bedew your pillow with tears by night, think you that He does not yet more closely entwine your precious and deathless interests around His heart, who bought you upon the cross, and who wearily trod many a step to seek and find you in the cloudy and dark day, and who will deck His brow with you as a sparkling jewel, when He cometh having on His head His many crowns!

But upon whom is the believer to place this care? There is no difficulty in determining. The transfer is at once from the human to the Divine, from the finite to the Infinite. We have but one true Burden-bearer—one Almighty Caretaker; even Him whom God has made strong for Himself and strong for us—the Mighty and the Almighty Saviour. In the matter of care the Lord would have us deal immediately and only with Himself. This is the controversy He has with us—our unwillingness to make the transfer to Him. Oh, could you be assured that the friend you best loved on earth could lighten the burden and chase away the care, ere the evening’s sun had set, would you not be found breathing your sorrows into his ear, and reposing your anxieties upon his heart? But to go to God—to pass by the human, and deal only with the Divine—to repair to the arm that was transfixed, and to the bosom that bled upon the cross, and repose your burden upon its power and love, oh, how difficult!—just because it is faith dealing with the Invisible. And yet, no task so easy, or, in its issue, more blessed—just because it is faith dealing with the Mighty One. But God, guardful of His honor, will not yield this controversy, and, jealous of His love, will not abate one iota of His claim. To Him the transfer must be made. Behold the key that unlocks the mystery of His dealings! Why has He smitten, as with paralysis, that arm upon which you leant? Why has He chilled, as with death, that bosom on which you reclined? Why has He exhausted, as by a burning drought, that cool spring, whose tide you quaffed? Why has He beclouded those sunny slopes, upheaved those verdant banks, which gave to the landscape of your life an aspect so picturesque, and to life itself a repose and a charm so exquisite? Oh, but to win, and woo, and draw you more closely beneath His own outstretched arm, and within His own sheltering bosom! He and He alone will share, and by sharing will soothe and exhaust, your care. Christ loves you too well, has bought you with a price too dear, has entwined you with interests too costly and precious, and has prepared for you a heaven and a destiny too glorious and lasting, to admit a rival, or unite with a partner in this office of Caretaker of the Church. Oh, thank Him for clearing the path by removing, so kindly and so gently, the object that intercepted your approach to Him, so that no angel, no saint, no minister, no church, no friend, should come between Christ and you, vailing Him for an instant, or in the slightest degree, from your eye.

But you will ask, How is this transfer of care to be made? In the directions which we suggest we would give prominence to the exercise of unquestioning faith. Here there must be a taking God at His word. Our warrant for an act apparently so impossible and presumptuous as the transferring of every thought of anxiety, and feeling of sadness, and pressure of want, to the Great JEHOVAH must be as divine and unquestionable as the act itself. That warrant is God’s revealed, infallible, unalterable word—“Cast thy burden on the Lord, and he shall sustain thee.” Your faith must credit, receive, trust in, and act upon this word without demur or condition, immediately and unreservedly, because it is the word of the living God! You must believe that God’s power is able, and that His love is willing, and that His grace is sufficient to assume the transfer,—that Christ, who has borne the heavier pressure of your curse, and your sins, and your very hell, is prepared to sustain, succor, and comfort you, removing your burden of care by absorbing it in Himself. O wondrous act! O precious life of faith! How happy to us! How glorifying to God! Beloved, can you not, will you not, believe that Jesus at this moment stands prepared to make all your care His own? that He means what He says when He invites you, the weary and the heavy-laden, to Himself for rest? Think you that He is taunting your sorrow, sporting with your care, trifling with your feelings, mocking your confidence, and asking you to believe, only that He might betray; to trust, only to deceive? Oh no! This is not the Christ of the Bible. Did He ever deal thus with a poor sinner! Was it ever known that He invited to His feet an anxious, care-depressed, burdened soul but to spurn that soul from His presence? Never! Oh, He is too true, too loving, too gentle, too kind, too faithful a Saviour for that! Will you, then, wound Him with your doubts, dishonour Him by your unbelief, and force from under you, buffeting, as you are, amidst the waves, this divine, sustaining plank—faith in the word and promise of the only true and living God?

Not less potent is prayer as a mean of transferring care to God. God often sends the care to rouse us to call upon Him. We want an errand, and He sends a trial; we want an impulse, and He sends a sorrow; we want earnestness and importunity, and He sends the heavy and the continuous stroke—all His waves breaking over us. Prayer is the safety valve of the soul. The heart would break, the spirit would sink, despair would fold its dark shroud around us, but for the privilege of access to God through Christ. Many a burdened believer has exclaimed, “Why sit I here nursing in lonely grief my sorrow? I will arise and give myself to prayer.” And the moment he has formed the resolution, ere he has presented or even framed his petition, unutterable relief has come. “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” What, then, is your sorrow? Is it sin? Arise, and in prayer pour out your confession to Christ, and cast this burden on the Sin-bearer. Is it temptation? Disclose it to Him who was once tempted too, and by the same Tempter, and who thus, from experience of what they feel, knows how to succor them that are tempted. Is it want? Betake yourself to the throne of grace, and let your requests he made known unto God, and in quick and ample response He will supply all your need. Oh, try the experiment of prayer! All others may have failed you—try yet this one! Spread your care before the Lord. His providence and grace stand pledged to meet your every necessity.

“Hast thou a care, whose presence dread
Expels sweet slumbers from thy bed?
To thy Redeemer take that care,
And turn anxiety to prayer.

“Hast thou a wish, with which thy heart
Would feel it almost death to part?
Entreat thy God that wish to crown,
Or give thee strength to lay it down.

“Hast thou a friend, whose image dear
May prove an idol worshipp’d here?
Implore thy God that nought may be
A shadow between heaven and thee.

“Whate’er the wish that breaks thy rest,
Whate’er the care that swells thy breast,
Spread before God that wish, that care,
And turn anxiety to prayer.”

“He careth for you.” Such is the encouragement to a compliance with His holy precept. The care of God extends over all. “Thou openest thine hand, and suppliest the wants of every living thing.” “Thou givest them their meat in due season.” Oh, what a God is our God! But if such is God’s goodness to His enemies,—for He maketh His sun to shine on the evil and the good,—what must be His goodness to His children! If he has regard to the raven, and feeds it when it cries, will He, think you, be indifferent to the plaintive note of His “dove, His undefiled one?” It is an especial care with which God cares for you. He cares for your temporal interests;—not one worldly anxiety, not one want of the life that now is, is too insignificant for His regard. He cares for your spiritual interests—for your soul’s prosperity, for your mental peace, for your joy of heart, for your growth in grace, for your character, your reputation, your usefulness. It is personal care. He careth for you. He careth for your individual cares, for your personal interests, never for an instant merging and forgetting your individual claims upon His interest, protection, and love in the great body of His Church. What encouragement this to betake yourself to the Lord, transferring all care from your heart to His! Let me conclude this chapter with one or two cautionary observations.

Do not anticipate care. This is to exceed the limit, which God has prescribed. With the future you have no concern, as you have no knowledge. A covenant God has, from eternity, provided for that future. It is all in the everlasting covenant of grace, and will unfold and assume just that form and complexion which thy God sees best. By anticipating care, and thus antedating your future, you grieve the Spirit of God, wound your own peace, and unfit yourself for present duty and trial. When that care comes—if come it should—it will bring with it its own support, and a fulfillment of the promise—“He careth for you.”

Sit not brooding over your state, deploring its existence, and lamenting your want of more faith, and grace, and love. Arise, responsive to the precept, and cast your burden upon the Lord, and He will sustain both you and it. This inordinate absorption within yourself will bring to you no relief, no heart’s ease, and no nourishment to faith. One uplifted glance—one sight of Jesus—one believing touch of the promise of God, will bring more repose to your anxious spirit, more succor to your burdened mind, than a lifetime of self-absorption.

“No profit canst thou gain
By self-consuming care;
To Him commend thy cause, His ear
Attends the softest prayer.

“Give to the winds thy fears;
Hope, and he undismay’d;
God hears thy sighs, and counts thy tears,
God shall lift up thy head.

“Through waves, and clouds, and storms,
He gently clears thy way:
Wait thou His time—thy darkest night
Shall end in brightest day.”

Remember that this casting of our care on God is a present and a constant duty. It is in the form of the present tense that the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, addresses us: “CASTING all your care on Him.” Defer it not until the morrow, nor wait a better frame—do it now! A present care will find a present Receiver, a present Helper, and a present relief. The Lord your God neither accepts nor rejects, grants nor denies you, because of the high or the low frame with which you approach Him. To suppose that He did—that the spiritual tone of your mind influenced His decision—were to make the turning-point of His love to centre in you rather than in Himself, and to argue that God was moved by other motives than those found within His own heart. God’s dealings with us from first to last, in the greatest and in the least,—from the love that chose us from everlasting, to the smile that sheds its bright halo around our dying pillow,—proceed upon the principle of His most free grace. And since He finds the motive of love and the bestowment of blessing solely within Himself, He, the unchangeable One, will not revoke the love, nor withdraw the gift, influenced by any fickleness or change He traces in you. Then, be your frame low, your heart dead, your faith weak—arise, and draw near to God, for the blood-tipped sceptre bids you approach, and the blessing, the richest God can bestow, or you desire, awaits your full acceptance.

Oh yes! the Lord cares for you. Little, obscure, despised, unworthy though you may be, or deem yourself to be, the Lord has an interest in you, the closest, the tenderest that ever dwelt in a heart of love. Bought with the Saviour’s blood, a temple of the Holy Ghost, sealed with the earnest of the Spirit as a child of God and an heir of glory, oh, there is not a bright angel in heaven for whom God so cares as He cares for you! Will you not respond to this truth by transferring all your care to Him in the exercise of a humble, unquestioning faith? Others may have ceased to care for you. Change has congealed the warm current of love, distance intercepts its flow, or death has stilled its pulse, and you feel as if there existed in this wide world no heart, no spirit, no mind that responded to, or that chimed and blended with your own. Yes; there is One!—Jesus cares for you. The HEART of GOD, from which all other hearts kindle their affection, entwines you with its thoughts, its sympathies, its love; and the Eye that searches the universe with a glance, bends upon you its ceaseless look of love. “When my father and my mother forsake me,”—when human affection quits its last, its latest, its most sacred home on earth,— “then the Lord will take me up.” The desolateness of widowhood shall claim His sympathy, the unbefriendedness of orphanage shall receive His protection, the suffering and languor of sickness shall be sustained by His grace, the grief of bereavement shall be soothed by His love, and the bed and valley of death shall be cheered and brightened with His radiant presence. Then, confide in and lean upon this divine, this human, this precious, this ever-present Saviour. He asks your boundless confidence and your warmest love. Most worthy of it is He. Will you withhold it? Take that anxious care which lies like lead upon your breast, which chases peace from your mind, joy from your heart, slumber from your pillow, shading all the landscape of life with wintry frost and storm, and lay it upon the heart pierced by the soldier’s lance,—the heart that distilled its last drop of life-blood on the tree,—and peace shall enfold you beneath its balmy wing. “BE CAREFUL FOR NOTHING: BUT IN EYERYTHING BY PRAYER AND SUPPLICATION WITH THANKSGIVING LET YOUR REQUESTS BE MADE KNOWN UNTO GOD. AND THE PEACE OF GOD, WHICH PASSETH ALL UNDERSTANDING, SHALL KEEP YOUR HEARTS AND MINDS THROUGH CHRIST JESUS.”

“Shall I not trust my God,
Who doth so well love me—
Who, as a Father, cares so tenderly?
Shall I not lay the load
Which would my weakness break,
On His strong hand, who never doth forsake?

“He doth know all my grief,
And all my heart’s desire;
He’ll stand by me till death, through flood and fire.
And He can send relief:
My Father’s love, so free,
Till the new morning shall remain to me.

“Who doth the birds supply,
Who grass, and trees, and flowers,
Doth beautifully clothe, through ceaseless hours;
Who hears us ere we cry;
Can He my need forget?
Nay, though He slay me, I will trust Him yet.

“When I His yoke do bear,
And seek my chiefest joy
But in His righteousness and sweet employ:
He makes my soul His care;
Early and late doth bless,
And crowneth work and purpose with success.

“O blessed be His name!
My Father cares for me!
I can no longer unbelieving be;
All praise to Him proclaim;
I know He is my Friend—
I know the Lord will love me to the end!”

 
 
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