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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Pride of Care

By Marvin Richardson Vincent (1834–1922)

[Born in Poughkeepsie, N. Y., 1834. Died in Forest Hills, N. Y., 1922. God and Bread; with Other Sermons. 1884.]

MEN will say, and very plausibly, “The anxious man has some excuse.” Take, for instance, a man in a position where many are depending on him for guidance or instruction, and where great interests are bound up with his success. It will be said, “It would be strange if he were not anxious.” From the world’s ordinary point of view, I should say so too. At any rate, he too often is anxious, careworn, living in a feverish scramble to overtake his work, haunted by the arrears of work. You honor his conscientiousness. So do I. You say it is unjust to find fault with him. I reply, God finds fault with him, even while He honors his diligence and fidelity,—finds fault with him because he will not cast off his anxiety on God, who has offered to relieve him of it. Is that unjust on the part of our Father? If so, you are guilty of similar injustice. Your little son is taken sick, and is unable to prepare his lesson for to-morrow’s school. He is worried and disappointed; he is anxious to excel; he is high up in his class, and wants to keep his place. You say to him, “Dismiss all care about that. I will make it right with the teacher.” And you have a right to expect that the boy will be satisfied with that; that he will take you at your word, and trouble himself no more about the lesson. And if, in the course of an hour, you find him worrying about it, are you not annoyed and displeased with him? Do you not say to him, “You ought to have more confidence in me”?

Pride, I say,—subtle, unconscious pride,—is at the bottom of much of this restlessness and worry. The man has come to think himself too important, to feel that the burden is on his shoulders only; and that, if he stands from under, there must be a crash. And, just to the degree in which that feeling has mastered him, his thought and faith have become divided from God. Let us give him his due. It is not for his own ease or reputation that he has been caring. It is for his work. And yet he has measurably forgotten that, if his work be of God, God is as much interested in his success as he himself can be; and that God will carry on his own work, no matter how many workmen He buries. He divides the burden, and shows whom He trusts most by taking the larger part himself, when God bids him cast it all on him. God, indeed, exempts nobody from work. We may cast our anxiety, but not our work on him. A sense of responsibility is a brace to manhood, and a developer of power; and, because God wants work and responsibility to react healthfully on men, He wants them to work with a hearty, joyous spirit. When the joy and the enthusiasm have gone out of work, something is wrong. There is a pithy proverb that “not work, but worry, kills men.” God is providing for man’s doing his work most efficiently when He offers him the means of doing it joyfully by casting all anxiety on him.

There are few men in responsible positions who have not felt the force of a distinguished Englishman’s words: “I divide my work into three parts. One part I do, one part goes undone, and the third part does itself.” That third part which does itself is a very expressive hint as to the needlessness of our fretting about at least one-third of our work, besides giving a little puncture to our self-conceit by showing that to one-third of our work we are not quite as necessary as we had thought ourselves. And as to the third, which the God-fearing man cannot do, and which therefore goes, or seems to go, undone, there is a further hint that possibly that third is better undone, or is better done in some other way and by some other man. That does not flatter our pride. I am very sure that it is always true for every faithful Christian worker, that whatever he cannot do, after having done his best, it is better that he should not do. And just there is where the humility comes in,—in the frank and cheerful acceptance of the fact, in casting all care about it on the Lord, and in not worrying and growing irritated over it. Says a modern preacher: “I love to work, but I have carried all my life long a sense that the work was so vast that no man, I did not care who he was, could do more than a very little; that He who could raise up children from the stones to Abraham could raise up men when He had a mind to, and men of the right kind, and put them in the right place; that, after all, the Lord was greater than the work, and that it was of no use for me to fret myself, and set myself up to be wiser than Providence. All I was called upon to do was to work up to the measure of my wisdom and strength, and to be willing to go wherever God sent me; and that then I was to be content.”

A good deal of our energy is expended in planning; and, when our plan is once made, we set our life on that track, and it runs with an ever-increasing momentum. We do not relish a collision or a delay. Insensibly we fall into the way of assuming that success in life means simply the success of our plan. Do we bethink ourselves that, if our plan is best in God’s eyes, He is as much interested in carrying it out as we are? If it is not best in his eyes, surely we do not want it carried out. Either way we may safely and restfully leave it with God. If we are determined to carry it out anyway, and are irritated at obstacles and delays, is that anything but pride? Are we so sure our plan is right, so proud of our pet project, that we must torment ourselves if God does not pet and foster it as we do? Oh, how afraid we are that our poor earthen vessels will go to pieces!…

It is right for us to make plans; but we ought to draw them as we draw the first draught of a plan for a new house, in lines that can be easily rubbed out if God so please. Pride gets into these plans before we know it. We think we want God’s work to succeed, and so we do; only, we want it to succeed in our way, and on the line of our plan. And yet not seldom God brings about the very result we are working for, by breaking our plan all to pieces. Then comes the test of our humility. Are we content to cast the whole matter on God, and to look cheerfully on the fragments of our plan? Are we humble enough not to feel grieved or angry because God chooses somebody or something else to do the same work? Sometimes God lets us see how much better the work is done by the breaking of our plan. The forty years among the mountain solitudes seemed to Moses, perhaps, lost time; but that slow, tedious ripening gave Israel a leader and a lawgiver. The next forty years yielded rich interest on the sad monotony of the previous forty. It seemed to Jacob that everything was against him when Joseph was stolen away. He could not see that Joseph had been sent to prepare a home for his old age, and to lay the foundations of a nation which should bear his name. It seemed as though the church could not spare Paul when he was shut up in prison, but the church of to-day has the four epistles of the imprisonment from that chained hand.