My Heavy Daily Burden
I seem to have inherited—or imbibed from some putrid well—a long-faced, morose and sanctimonious approach to duty.
- [Imagine: Many sighs and heavings of the breast to communicate the awful heaviness of my daily burden]
No need to thank me. I’m just doing my duty!
- [Interpretation: You have no idea how many hours of thankless service I give you every day of my life! If it weren’t for you I’d be a whole lot happier! Probably healthier, too!]
Oswald Chambers was allergic to this kind of Christianity. Every now and then—not too often, mind you!—I get into a little funk about the great and heavy burdens I bear without complaint because I’m just doing my duty! For you, of course, my dear _______ !
- [Fill in the blank: husband, child, friend, employer, student, neighbor, etc. etc. etc.]
Why, then, is this seemingly unbearable burden so bearable that we even enjoy boasting about it? Why not just show it the door, kick it out, or send it where it belongs?
Chambers doesn’t say it outright, but he hints that it’s bearable because we think it’s earning us gold stars on our foreheads—the way we used to earn them when at least some of us were very good and dutiful little girls and boys in school. Or at church. Or at home. Or at work.
Not so, says OC. It’s not earning us anything! Here’s what he says about duty, edited for readability. He’s commenting on the following verse:
Whatever things are lovely. . .think on these things. (Philippians 4:8)
The things of loveliness,
the things that are morally agreeable and pleasant.
The word lovely has the meaning of juicy and delicious.
That is the definition given by Calvin,
and he is supposed to be a Moloch of severity!
We have the idea that duty must always be disagreeable,
and we make any number of duties out of diseased sensibilities.
If duty is disagreeable,
it is a sign that we are in a disjointed relationship with God.
If God gave some people a fully sweet cup,
they would go carefully into a churchyard and turn the cup
upside down and empty it, and say,
“No, that could never be meant for me.”
The idea has become incorporated into their makeup
that their lot must always be miserable.
Once we become rightly related to God,
duty will never be a disagreeable thing of which we have to say
with a sigh, “Oh well, I must do my duty.”
Duty is the daughter of God.
Never take your estimate of duty after a sleepless night,
or after a dose of indigestion;
take your sense of duty from the Spirit of God and the words of Jesus.
There are people whose lives are diseased and twisted by a
sense of duty which God never inspired;
but once let them begin to think about the things of loveliness,
and the healing forces that will come into their lives will be amazing.
The very essence of godliness is in the things of loveliness;
think about these things, says Paul.
Oswald Chambers, Daily Thoughts for Disciples, July 2
First published in 1976; published in the USA by Barbour Publishing
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 July 2015
Image of Pugh cartoon from dailymail.co.uk, 2 July 2015