Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.…
I. THE DISEASE. We must, of course, be careful for many things, in the sense of taking thought about them or taking pains in working on them. Christianity does not favor indolent improvidence; for it teaches, "If a man will not work neither let him eat." Nor does it encourage reckless carelessness; for it everywhere instils a thoughtful, conscientious sense of responsibility. What it does discourage is anxiety.
1. This is painful. How painful most of us know only too well. The wear and fret of care sometimes make the advice to rejoice alway read like a mockery.
2. This is injurious. Men rarely die of hard work, but often of vexing anxiety. It is not toil, but trouble, that turns the hair grey before its time.
3. This hinders spiritual energy. The "cares of this world" choke the good seed as much as its pleasures and riches. When absorbed in worldly anxiety, men have no energy, heart, nor time for spiritual concerns. In the petty cares of a day they drown the grand claims of eternity.
II. HUMAN REMEDIES.
1. Reason. Care is foolish and useless.
"Care is no cure, but rather corrosive,
For things that are not to be remedied." Often it is groundless, a shadow of our own imagination, and of no real trouble. Thus Burns says -
"But human bodies are sic fools,
For a' their colleges and schools,
That when nae real ills perplex them,
They make enow themsel's to vex them." But anxiety is too strong for reason. It persists against reason.
2. Phitosophic complacency in the best of all possible worlds. We cannot think that "whatever is is best." Philosophers may say so in their calm seclusion; toilers and sufferers will never believe it in the rough experience of real life (Christianity does not require this optimism, or it would not encourage prayer for changes).
3. Stoical indifferences. Here and there this may be possible; but it is not natural, and it is only got with the loss of much human tenderness.
4. Cyclical carelessness. This may come with despair. It is not the cure of anxiety, but its fatal victory over a ruined life.
III. THE DIVINE CURE. Christ taught us to conquer earthly anxiety in two ways, by trusting in our heavenly Father (Matthew 6:32), and by transferring our care to more worthy objects, by which means it becomes itself transformed into a noble concern for the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). St. Paul follows on the same lines.
1. Prayer is the remedy for care. we are distinctly invited to bring our anxieties to God. We are to be anxious about nothing, by making supplication about everything. Thus, as the area of prayer advances, that of care recedes. The conventional limitation of prayer is the secret of much unconquered anxiety.
2. Thanksgiving perfects the remedy. This is a ground of encouragement in prayer for future help and a direct relief from pressing anxiety. Care has a bad memory. Grateful recollections of the past will greatly allay anxieties about the future. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.