Cheerful faces all around

I’m having a hard time the last couple of days. Yesterday, I didn’t know what to make of the joy passage I was studying. And today, I’m not sure, either. But I guess that, if there is one thing that I’m good at, it’s being wrong. Just ask my wife. So I’m going to throw out a potential interpretation and application for Proverbs 15:13. At least, if I’m wrong, someone out there should be able to correct me. Right? So here we go:

The verse, in the HCSB, reads, “A joyful heart makes a face cheerful, but a sad heart produces a broken spirit.”

And today, I’m thinking that it means that, if I have real joy, I can be at least bearable. Even when life is only barely so. But if I don’t have real joy, I will become snippy. Snarky. And eventually, resigned to defeat.

I guess it makes sense, considering the definition of joy that I discovered so many months ago when I first started this whole study: “passion or emotion excited by the… expectation of good” (Webster’s 1913).

In other words, real joy – that is, the expectation that, regardless of how bad this life may be right now, God is working it all out for my good, even if that good doesn’t come until glory – should adjust my attitude back toward cheerful in any circumstance.

Now, it’s time for a little confession. I struggle with this. Because there have been too many times that I’ve become snippy or snarky. And there have been far too many times that I’ve simply resigned myself to the fact that this is the way things are, and there is nothing that can change that. All of these would seem indicative of a counterfeit – or, at the very least, a very weak – joy. So what do I need to do to get back to that joy which can produce a “cheerful countenance,” as the KJV puts it?

Well, looking at my own life, I think the answer is sometimes going to be rest. As much as I hate to admit it, I need it. Other times, I think the answer is going to have to be solitude. I need to take time to get away from everyone and everything and just invest in myself. But most often, I think the answer has got to be, as corny and pathetic as it may seem, to simply bury myself in the presence of the Lord.

You see, most often, when I find myself growing snippy, etc., it’s after I’ve missed my devotions for several days. And as that time grows to weeks, I do indeed find myself growing more and more broken in spirit.

At any rate, that is all secondary to this simple assertion: joy is essential because it makes it possible for us to remain cheerful in the most dreadful of situations.

For instance, how could Peter and the apostles leave the Sanhedrin “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be dishonored on behalf of the Name” (Acts 5:42 HCSB)? How is it that Paul and Silas were “singing hymns of praise to God” (NASB) while sitting in the prison’s deepest cell in Acts 16:25? And how could is it that James could write, “Consider it a great joy… whenever you experience various trials” (James 1:2 HCSB)? Real, unfeigned, authentic, God-given joy – the kind of joy that comes from a relationship with Him and the certainty that He’s going to work it out and we win in the end – makes it possible to bear even the most terrible things cheerfully.


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