There are few graces which the world admires so much as the grace of a cheerful heart. There is a certain perennial attraction in men and women who bear their burdens well. When we see a face all lined with care it often touches the chord of pity in us. We are moved to compassion when it flashes on us what a story is engraven there. But the face that really helps us on our journey is seldom the face of battle and of agony; it is the face which has its sunshine still. None of us is enamored by a frown. All of us are attracted by a smile. We recognize by an unerring instinct that in happy-heartedness there is a kind of victory. And so we love it as we love the sunshine or the song of the birds upon the summer morning. It takes its place with these good gifts of God.
The Charms of Children
Children are possessors of this sunny attribute. That is one reason why the presence of children is such a perpetual solace and so refreshing. Children are far from being little angels as every father and every mother knows. They can be cruel and intensely selfish and amazingly and unblushingly untruthful. Yet when the worst is said of them that can be said, there yet remains in them this touch of heaven which is a greater blessing to the world than all the modem methods of communication. They cry., and then in the passing of an hour the heart that was inconsolable is healed. They scowl (and they are not pretty when they scowl), but so far as I know them they never bear any malice. They bully in the most shocking fashion, when you and I happen to be absent, but if they bully they almost never brood. “I would have you without carefulness” — that is how the great apostle puts it. He was one of these men whose interests were too vast to allow him time for watching little people. But Christ, whose interests were far vaster, somehow or other always had time for that, and so He puts it, not “I would have you without carefulness,” but “except ye become as little children.”
Of course we must distinguish happy-heartedness from that poor counterfeit we call frivolity. A child may be absolutely irresponsible, but a child is never frivolous. No one is so swiftly touched to wonder. No one is so deeply moved with awe. When our children laugh at what to us is sacred, it simply means that they do not understand. The things that are wonderful and great in their eyes are not at all what we consider so, and note, you never find them mocking at what is wonderful and great to them. Now that is the very hallmark of frivolity. It recognizes what is great and jests at it. It is not an intellectual inability; it is much more truly a moral inability. Some of the most frivolous people I have known had plenty of brains and were as sharp as needles; it was their heart and not their brain which was contemptible. The great instance of frivolity in Scripture is that of the men who refused the invitation. They were by no means intellectual fools, these men. They could do a bit of work and do it admirably. But when this moment came they all made light of it — they took it as a joke though it was kingly —they lost the opportunity of their lives because of their old habit of belittling. Different by all the world from that is the sweet genius of happy-heartedness. It is as swift to recognize the best as is frivolity to have a laugh at it. Indeed so far as my experience goes, frivolous people are commonly unhappy and are very often trying to forget something which is akin to tragedy.
Now we are all apt to think that such a happy disposition is just temperamental. We are apt to think it is just born with people, and of course in a measure that is true. There are those with a perfect genius for the sunshine, and those with a perfect genius for the shadow. There are those who will carry a burden in a happy way without the slightest aid from any faith, and you, who wrestle in prayer about the thing, are bowed with it to the very ground. And not only is it temperamental. We might go further and say that it is racial. Broadly speaking, as we survey the world, we find it to be a national characteristic. For the Irish have it and the Scots have not; and the southern peoples and not the northern peoples; and the Kaffir boy out in South Africa will go singing and laughing over his work all day while his Dutch master, for all his Bible reading, will have a face as long as his prayers.
A Virtue To Be Won
But there is one thing in the Bible I have often noticed. I wonder if it has occurred to you? It is how often it classes with virtues to be won what we have reckoned to be gifts of nature. The Bible is always true to the great facts. It never diminishes nor distorts anything. It recognizes in the most liberal way the infinite divergences of nature. And yet I am often struck by how often it takes these natural endowments and says to you of what you do not have —”that is a virtue to be won.” Think of courage — do not we regard that as a gift? Don’t we know that certain men are born courageous? Do you think every boy could say what Nelson said: “Fear, mother — what is fear? I never saw it”?
And yet this courage, which with perfect justice we are in the way of regarding as temperamental, is viewed in Scripture as something to be won. Take joy. Are we the masters of our joy? Is not the capacity for joy inherent? Are there not those who gravitate to joy as there are others who gravitate to gloom? And yet our Savior says to His disciples, “These things have I spoken to you, that in me ye might have joy.” And the fruit of the spirit is love and joy and peace.
Well now, as it is with these, so I take it as with happy-heartedness. In the eyes of God and in the light of Scripture it is a shining virtue to be won. It may be easier for some than others just because of the nature God has given. But remember we do not win our best when we have won our most congenial virtues. A happy disposition is possible for all — that is what I want to urge tonight —and the unfailing secret of it lies in the casting of the burden on the Lord. It does not matter what the burden be. Burdens are just as various as blessings: They may be secret, or they may be public. They may be real, or they may be imaginary. But once a man has learned this deepest lesson that God is with him and will see him through, I say to the weariest and most desponding soul that happy-heartedness is in his grasp. Many of the heaviest burdens men can bear have to be borne where eyes can never pierce. Many of the heaviest burdens men can bear fall on them through the relationships of life. It matters not. There can be no exceptions in the magnificent impartiality of God. Cast thy burden on the Lord.
Depending upon God
Now I want you to notice — it is very important — the words in which our text is couched. It is “cast thy burden on the Lord”; it is not “cast thy burden anywhere.” I think there is nothing poorer or more cowardly than just the desire to be rid of burdens. It is always the mark of meanness in a character and the sorry witness of a contracting soul. For life grows richer by what we have to bear, and sympathies grow tenderer and broader, and the world expands into a richer place through things which we once thought would make us poorer. They say that the Indian by putting his ear to the ground can hear far off the galloping of horses. Erect, there is not a sound upon the breeze. Prone on the earth, he hears the distant trampling. And I daresay there are some here tonight who lived and moved upon a silent prairie until somehow they were bowed into the dust. The Bible never urges any man recklessly to cast his cares away. As soon would it urge the captain of a ship to cast out his ballast when he was clear of port. Knowing the preciousness of what is heavy, it bids us summon to our aid the power of God, and it is that which makes all the difference in the world. Now we know we are in the hands of One who providently caters to the sparrow. Now we know that on the line of duty we shall have strength for all that must be done. Now we can laugh with the children in the thick of it, and have our sunshine even in December, for God is with us and His name is wonderful and underneath are the everlasting arms.
Christ Makes the Difference
In closing I have one thing more to say — one thing I never think of without shame. It is how much easier this secret is for us than it ever could have been for David. “Cast thy burden on the Lord,” he wrote — and of course he had first done it for himself. Now tell me, what was that Lord to David- that Lord into whose keeping he committed everything? He was the King eternal and invisible, and clouds and darkness were around His throne, and men looked to the left hand and He was not there, and to the right and lo! they could not find Him. Was not the faith of these old Jews magnificent? Could you have trusted in such a God as that? Could you have believed that the infinite Creator would open His arms and take your burden in? It might have been easy for a Greek to do it for he believed in the divinity of man, but how a Jew rose to a faith like that is to me as wonderful as any miracle.
But do you see how everything is changed now? We have Christ and that makes all the difference. For do you remember how, when Christ was here, men came and cast their burdens upon Him? Everyone did it, and did it as by instinct — it did not matter what the burden was — and “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” Run through the gamut of our human burdens, and tell me if there were any that they failed to bring. They brought their sicknesses and they brought their fears. They brought their children and they brought themselves. And the strange thing is that though Christ was angry sometimes, and His eyes flashed in righteous indignation, not in a single instance do you find Him angry because anyone cast a burden upon Him.
We Can Achieve Joy
My brother and sister, if your faith is to be real, shall I tell you what you must always do? You must always carry into your thought of God what you have learned and seen of Jesus Christ. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father:” He is the express image of His person. You must carry up into your thought of God all the revelation of His Son. And I tell you that when you once do that the Fatherhood of God becomes so wonderful that even you, with your weak and trembling faith, are able to cast your burden upon Him. It took a hero to achieve it once. The weakest woman can achieve it now. It was once the act of a sublime enthusiasm. It is now within the reach of everyone of you. So sure are we in Christ of God’s deep sympathy and of His care for us and of His love, that there is not a man or woman here who may not know the strength of happy-heartedness. Therefore I charge you in the name of Christ that you are not to let that burden weigh you down. I charge you to remember that you sin if you live in gloom and miserable wretchedness. Never frivolous, but always reverent-happy-hearted just because He knows — I know no better way in this strange world of glorifying the Father and the Son.