Reprinted from When Thou Sittest In Thine House, by Abraham Kuyper, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1929. Used by permission of Eerdmans Publishing Co.
The fact, alas, cannot be denied, that for more than one household the new year that is at hand will open a new source of trouble and anxiety.
So often one had hoped that he had reached the point of a turn in his affairs. After the many “lean” years, at length the “fat” would make their appearance. The worst was now past. The spring could not be bent lower. And if now there would come but a certain small beginning of improvement, it would be for trade and business as the first green in the park at spring-time. A spring, which was prophetic of a summer, and presently after that summer and autumn with rich harvests.
Then everyone would be on top again. Past troubles would be forgotten. Songs of praise would rise from the dried-up throat. And already now, while still in the midst of adversity, one was kept standing by the hope that soon it would come to this: a hope on which one could not live indeed, but which kept up life’s courage.
But who can close the eye to the fact that also the year 1895 has not brought us the first bud of this hope.
Advance there is none at a single point. Not one knot in the great social problem has been unraveled. All through Europe, even across the seas, things are on a tension. And the difficulty of earning an honest living became ever greater. Competition, with its unholy passion, ever more austere. For a dozen and more years we have known a period of prosperity, but it has come to an end.
And though we know very well that “the kingdom of God and his righteousness” must be sought first, this does not alter the fact that the change of year is not an event in spiritual, but in civil life. And that the question how to pay one’s debts that are still owing, and improve one’s affairs that are going behind, and at least for one year make ends meet with honor, is a hard question for many, that grips the throat as it were and makes the questioning eye gaze somberly out before it.
And now you may say: “Be not concerned, dear brother, He who provides is the Lord.” But from the gospel it is evident that Christ Himself deals with our human heart in its anxiety and in its need in an entirely different way.
For truly, the Lord also said, “Take no thought.” But with this saying He also made that other string in our heart to vibrate: “Every day has evil enough of its own” (Matt. 6:34, Dutch version).
What affects one so cruelly in this saying: “Be not anxious, dear brother!” from the lips of one who is himself in comfortable circumstances is that one dismisses thereby the troubled of heart with a word. Superficially passes over what to him are bands of death. And thereby shows that he has no love, does not enter into his neighbor’s trouble, and at heart is weaned of the sympathy of compassion.
And with Jesus you find this to be so altogether the opposite. Something which you perceive at once at the sound of the surprising words: “Every day has evil enough of its own.”
He who says this, shows that He interprets human life almost yet more somberly than he who takes life at its hardest.
Most people take it, that ordinarily life is bearable, without being inviting, and that only at certain times troubles increase to overwhelm our heart.
But Jesus takes it far more seriously and somberly.
No, says your Savior, your life is no chain of bearable days, broken only now and then by a day of adversity. All of life is troublous. Every day a cup is to be drained. Seven times a week a sun sets and there are stars that darken. Or briefly, as the evangelist has reported it to us: “Every day has evil enough of its own.”
The very reverse, therefore, of what those other comforters say.
Not: “There is no reason to be thus troubled and concerned.” But rather on the contrary: “You have no idea yet of your real trouble. For if you fully understood the evil of today, you would have neither time nor strength so much as even to think of the evil of tomorrow.
That you are already busy now with the evil oftomorrow and of the day after tomorrow shows that you make light of the evil of today, that you do not estimate it correctly, that you do not fathom its depth.
Therefore do not fill your head and heart with evil that belongs to tomorrow. That comes in order when it is tomorrow. Now you have to look out for the evil of this day. And he who is right-minded feels that with this he has his hands already more than full.
You have neither time nor strength to be already now engaged with the evil of tomorrow.
Every day has enough and more of its own evil.
Did we say too much, that in this drastic word there is something surprising? Something that at once overturns your deliberations, and makes you face life differently?
You had already accustomed yourself to too much evil. To oh so much that really hurt your heart, you had already become indifferent. You no longer called it evil.
What you continued to be alarmed about were merely those very bad things and painful troubles which threatened you from afar.
And Jesus at once calls you back to your heart, and complains about your indifference. That at retiring at night you can say: “Thank God, everything today has gone well. Nothing has gone wrong,” when, viewed by holier light,nothing went well. Neither in your own heart, neither in your family, nor in your associations. Not only your inner life, but also your relation to others, and your condition in life, were so altogether different from what this ought to bein your Paradise, while, as God’s child, you should be able to call everything short of Paradise evil.
But you are all over this. You sit in the prison-cell, and have been dulled by it. You carry heavy chains and it does not trouble you when the links of them cut into your flesh.
That is your self-degradation. Born child of a king, the beggar’s tatters do not offend you anymore, which at better and deeper insight disgrace you.
And this letting go of your high nobility, this looking away from your claim to higher happiness, is what estranges you from your God, from your origin, from your Father who is in heaven. Thereby anxiety for the future of your God quite overpowers you. And while you have become impervious with respect to the evil of today against which you should battle, you fall down helplessly, and without power of resistance, at alarm for the evil that after weeks or months can come.
And do not say that this word of Jesus makes you more unhappy.
This is seemingly so, but it is not so.
But one reproachfully replies: “With my cares for the future I am greatly burdened. And now you would burden my heart still more by the thought of all sorts of present evils, to which fortunately I had become accustomed, and which therefore troubled me no more.”
But the experience teaches otherwise, and Jesus’ word puts the seal to it.
We must know that our life is “seventy and eighty years, and that it is mostly labor and sorrow.” Every day we must feel the raw antithesis between the happiness that God had prepared for us, and the realities amid which we live. Then alone you will know and recognize that your home above, your native land, is with God, that the hard journey, which here we have to make, is the result of our own folly, that we took the wrong way, and thus must turn back upon it, to come out again with our God.
So everything in you becomes awake. You make highest claims to your inheritance for Jesus’ sake above, but for this very reason you make no slightest claim to be well off, already now, here on the pilgrim journey.
Evil is here, it is here every day, every hour, indoors and out of doors, within you and in others. And he who has an eye for this, he lives, he feels, the smarting pain in his soul, but energy stimulates him, and in the midst of his wrongs he can be so quiet and warmly thankful for every cup of cold water that is handed him on his pilgrim journey.
He who goes through life half blind, and therefore does not see the evil of each day, does not know sin, feels no concern about the cause of God, his children do not weigh upon his heart with an eternal interest, the love of Christ and of His Zion does not consume him.
When such a man draws a hundred thousand from the lottery, has no sickness at home, and has many friends, he is rich as Croesus, and would cast all care aside.
Other people’s needs, deeper wants, more anxious cares do not move him.
And herein lies the falseness of his condition; for once the hour comes when no money can offer him any more refreshment, and deadly terror of eternal need overtakes the soul as he is summoned to judgment, and all this evil of every day for which he never had an eye shall as a mighty specter suddenly stand before him.
He who, if he but had money, would lay aside all care, in the inmost part of his heart leans yet more upon mammon than upon God. Sometimes even his prayer is nothing else than a prayer that God will help him gain the favor of mammon.
And to cut off this evil condition at the root, Jesus unsparingly calls you back from the evil of tomorrow and of the day after tomorrow to the evil of today.
To the evil of this day. A day in which you see no evil, because your eyes have been blindfolded. And now Jesus removes the blindfold, and shows all the evil, there is today. Altogether different evil, much deeper evil. Debts not of money, but debts to God. Debts that make separation between you and your Father who is in heaven, and therefore rob you of the rest and comfort which faith in your Father above regarding the future can impart.
Here shines divine wisdom.
He who enters upon the new year, not to take the care for the future out of the hands of his God, but every day with open eye to see the evil that there is in that day, and do battle that day against it, and that day to overcome it, he comes with every passing day closer to his God, and every day he learns a little better the difficult lesson, to commit to his God, what that God has anyway already in His hand.