Looking for a good read this summer? Granted, this is not your typical beach book (no bodices get ripped, there are no steely-eyed men, and I’m pretty sure nothing gets hijacked or explodes), but The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life is a classic and, if you’ve not yet explored it, put it on your list.
Hannah Whitall Smith wrote the book in 1883. I own the new (1888) edition, which Smith begins by saying that what she has to say is “no new story.” Indeed. It isn’t new, but every chapter feels fresh because it is so chock-full of practical stuff for making the Christian life one that is both enjoyable and do-able, no matter how many curve balls come our way.
Here’s a sample:
Most Christians are like a man who was toiling along the road, bending under a heavy burden, when a wagon overtook him, and the driver kindly offered to help him on his journey. He joyfully accepted the offer but when seated in the wagon, continued to bend beneath his burden, which he still kept on his shoulders. “Why do you not lay down your burden?” asked the kind-hearted driver. “Oh!” replied the man, “I feel that it is almost too much to ask you to carry me, and I could not think of letting you carry my burden too.”
Yeah. I get that. I say I trust God to take care of me, but I don’t really give him my burdens – at least not all the way. Or if I do, I take them back, thinking that I somehow have to “handle” my stuff. And so I go through a lot of life like some poor, unfortunate soul, “weary and heavy laden” under a load of inner worries (weaknesses, temptations, feelings) and external concerns (my kids, my house, my health, my reputation, my ministry, my job, my hair…you get the idea).
Smith tells the story of a friend who had a very heavy burden: The circumstances of her life she could not alter, but she took them to the Lord, and handed them over to His management; and then she believed He took it, and she left all the responsibility and the worry and anxiety to Him. As often as the anxieties returned, she took them back; and the result was, that, although the circumstances remained unchanged, her soul was kept in perfect peace in the midst of them. She felt that she had found out a practical secret; and from that time she sought never to carry her own burdens, nor to manage her own affairs, but to hand them over, as fast as they arose, to the Divine Burden-bearer.
I thought that sounded pretty good. But I wasn’t sure how, practically, to do that. I mean, it’s not like my anxiety or my to-do list is a sack of potatoes that I can just leave on God’s doorstep. I mulled that one over for awhile, and then kept reading.
Do you recollect the delicious sense of rest with which you have sometimes gone to bed at night, after a day of great exertion and weariness? How delightful was the sensation of relaxing every muscle…You trusted yourself to the bed in an absolute confidence, and it held you up, without effort, or strain, or even thought on your part. You rested!
Okay, so here comes the slightly awkward part. Because she had me at “bed.”
I am one of those people (and I truly hope there are others) who literally climbs under the covers at night and says, “Thank you, God, for my bed.” Seriously. I really like my bed, and I am really grateful for it. And so, most nights, I tell God that. (I am sure that Robbie thinks I am crazy, and that God already knows I like my bed cuz I just told him that last night. But sometimes you just can’t be too grateful.)
Anyhow, I thought about what it feels like to just relax at night, and I decided that when I go to bed tonight, if there is any burden I am carrying over from the day, I am going to give it to God. I am going to picture it transferred, like a sack of potatoes, into God’s capable hands. And I am going to go to sleep. (I figure this is an extra-good plan to try at night, since the Bible says that God “will neither slumber nor sleep,” so even a vigilante/controlling mama like me can rest easy, knowing that Somebody is on the job.)
And then, if I wake up tomorrow and find my burden waiting like one of the dogs, I am going to do just what Hannah Whitall Smith’s pal did. I am going to hand it over to God again.
I don’t know if this experiment will help you, but feel free to try it with me. Or, just skip the whole bed thing and simply believe what Smith says is part of the secret:
“Your part is simply to rest. His part is to sustain you; and He cannot fail.”