Thursday, May 17, 2007

Be of Good Cheer

“Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.” (Acts 27:25)

One of the editors of the Newsweek magazine has offered what she considers to be a clear indication that our president is in denial about what is happening around him, especially the war. The fact that as a boy of seven he tried to cheer his mother up after the loss of a child provides an early sign that a tendency toward optimism was inherent; and this, she concludes, is a very bad thing. To quote her: "The tip-off for denial is perpetual optimism, a pathological certainty that things are going well." This editor, who, by the way, has no actual training in such things, is typical of most news media types, who know that misery sells better than happiness. And the idea that someone can express optimism in the face of opposition is to her “pathological.”

This does not bother me too much in individuals who are familiar with God in name only, but when I see it in men and women who claim to have a living relationship with Him, I am somewhat baffled. In the case of a Christian, the lack of joy—cheerfulness, if you will—is much more of an indication that one is living in a state of denial, since everything we know about God from His Word would indicate that He is eminently in control.

Somewhere along the line, we seem to have gotten the impression that gravity is an indication of depth and profundity, while cheerfulness is a sign of shallowness and superficiality. Perhaps it comes from our own need to appear important. Whatever it is, it is for certain it does not come from the Bible. Nor does it mean one must be unaware of the seriousness of a situation. In times of sickness (Matt.9:2), fear (Matt.14:27), tribulation (Jno.16:33), and even imprisonment (Acts 23:11), we are encouraged to “be of good cheer.” In Acts 27, in the midst of a great storm, threatening the lives of all on board, the Apostle Paul, stands in their midst and proclaims, “Sirs, be of good cheer, for I believe God…” Now, we’re beginning to get the picture. You thought there was a catch, didn’t you? It all goes back to that little, all-important word, “faith.” People who truly believe what God has said have a totally different outlook on life from those who are openly, or secretly, skeptical.

I should hasten to point out that mindless optimism, or inappropriate hilarity is not a sign of godly cheer, but rather, immaturity. One should be serious about cheerfulness, if I may say it that way. It should rest upon the promises of God, not wishful thinking. The fact is, there is much in this life that would give us good excuse for gloom; but, on the other hand, there is nothing about God’s eternal life that leaves any room for pessimism.

We have every right in the world to be incorrigibly cheerful. Go for it!

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