The Easiest Way!
Charles Naylor, 1941
A farmer was passing through his field one day when he observed a hole in the fence. As he was weary from his labors, instead of properly repairing the fence he stuck a piece of a rail in the hole and went his way. The next morning he found half a dozen hogs in his cornfield and spent an hour or so getting them out and making proper repairs on the fence. Considerable destruction had also been done in the field to the growing crop. He had taken the easiest way, as it seemed—but in the end it proved to be the hardest way.
A timberman broke his log chain. Instead of having it properly repaired he took the easiest way, as it seemed to him, and fastened the chain together with wire. A few days later he was some miles from home loading logs when the repaired place in the chain broke. This time he had no wire, so he was compelled to unhitch his team and go several miles to the repair shop and lost nearly a half day of valuable time.
Doing things the easiest way, often proves to be doing them the poorest way, the costliest way, and in the end the hardest way. The farmer who does this, may be known by the looks of his barnyard and buildings. The merchant who does this, comes to bankruptcy. The mechanic who does this, loses his job.
In the spiritual life, though, many follow these examples, even when they know the outcome cannot be good. They see some duty they ought to do, but they let it go undone. They see some progress they ought to make that would require an effort on their part, but they just let go and risk all, hoping that someway, somehow it will come out all right anyway.
How easy it is to say, "Oh, just let it go!" This is the easiest way for the time being—but in the end, is it really the easiest way? Are not such people constantly reproached by their conscience for their neglect? Do they not miss the joy and peace and satisfaction of heart which come from the knowledge of duty well done? Is not the loss of an approving conscience in these matters, greater than the effort it would take to do duty and to do it properly?
Neglect in the present, just letting things drift—makes the future harder. It robs one of a thousand blessings. It often fills the soul with regret and sometimes with remorse. So the easiest way cannot be neglect of duty. Neglect of opportunities, neglect to measure up to God's expectations or the expectations of our brethren, while it may be easy for the moment—is harder in the end and often becomes disastrous.
So when in spiritual things you are tempted to say, "Just let it go," whether you say it to another or say it to your own soul—means that you are choosing the hardest way in at least nine cases out of ten. The present ease, will mean future hardness, and usually dissatisfaction and regret. The easiest way of all is to do what ought to be done, when it ought to be done, and in the way it ought to be done. Then the conscience and the mind are at rest and we feel a gratifying sense of satisfaction in duty well done.
When we do attempt a thing, whether it be some labor, some duty toward others, self-cultivation, or whatever it may be—we are many times tempted to choose the method that requires the least labor, without regard to the final results. We feel we must do something, but perhaps there is not a willingness to exert oneself to the extent necessary to do the thing the best way.
The artisan who does this, soon has the reputation of being a poor workman. The farmer who does this, raises poor crops. The preacher who does, this preaches poor sermons. The Christian who does this, is not a progressive and thoroughly happy and blessed Christian. What is really easiest in the end, is that which is best. When we use the best method—then we get the best results. When we slight our work—then we always pay dearly for our attempt to do things the easiest way.
When one of those neglectful Christians who does things the way that seems the easiest for the moment, gets sick or gets into serious difficulty or under a heavy trial—he pays very dearly for his indolent attitude hitherto. He is where he needs grace and strength, where he needs to be vigorous and strong, where he needs a good conscience and a confident assurance. He does not have these. Therefore, his battle will be much harder to win, and his difficulties will be harder to overcome.
He wonders why his trials are heavier than those of others. The trouble is, that he has weakened himself by taking the easiest way. He has neglected to strengthen the weak places. He has omitted doing what he knew he ought to do, and now he must pay the full penalty for it. His past ease, must now be corrected by great labors. When we slight the present—we rob the future. When we rob the future—we incur a debt we must surely pay in that future day. Many have repaid such debts with tears and heartaches, with sorrows and struggles, with defeats and sometimes with disasters. How much easier it is in the end, when we have done things properly all the way along!
Sometimes people think the easiest way is the way that requires the least sacrifice. They know it would be better if they would sacrifice something to gain the end desired, but they refuse to sacrifice, and take the easier way. They miss the reward of sacrifice. They miss the satisfaction of work well done and often regret not having made the sacrifice.
Sometimes to do things as they ought to be done, requires humiliation, self-abasement, and the condition of being misunderstood by others. Those who are not willing to humble themselves, often seek for an easier way, a way which will not humiliate them—but what they do can never satisfy their own souls. Whenever they think of the matter, there will be an inward unrest. There will be a sense of having come short of God's real purpose, and of having missed an opportunity of which they should have taken the fullest advantage. They have really done the thing in the hardest way—and the humiliation they shunned led to an inward humiliation that will last longer even though it was not greater at the time.
Let us do things as we ought to do them. Let us live as we ought to live, sacrifice as we ought to sacrifice, and measure up to the full standard of the truth. Then we shall have the satisfaction of duty well done. We shall have the approval of our conscience. We shall have the approval of God. We shall have that peace which passes all understanding. We shall have grace to meet our trials, temptations, and difficulties. We shall be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.
But if we do things the easiest way—then we shall be weak and faltering, we shall have a thousand difficulties we would not otherwise have, and we can never develop that rich fullness of Christian experience that we are privileged to have, if we will do things as they ought to be done.