Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Happy Heart

“A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance…” (Prov. 15:13) “…he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.” (Prov. 15:15) “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (Prov. 17:22)

         One preacher has observed, “God is not some ‘cosmic kill-joy’ who frowns when we smile.” I agree. These verses, and others like them, say as much. We are all aware that in much of life, attitude determines outcome. As you can see from the cited texts, a merry heart is mentioned three times in the book of Proverbs, each time telling us a benefit we receive from having one.  

         First, a merry heart will make you better looking (15:3). Oh, I know; it may not change your features, but it sure will make you easier on the eyes! There is nothing beautiful about a hard, sullen, or pouty face, no matter how symmetrical the features; but the beauty of a cheerful countenance is unrivaled in its drawing power. I have always known that any compliments I have received in life had more to do with my attitude than my appearance. It’s the only “beauty secret” I possess. 

         There are very few truly poker faces. As Charles Bridges, in his commentary on Proverbs, points out: “A man’s countenance is the index of his spirit.” A cheerful countenance is not the same as an idiotic grin or a conspiratorial smirk. These indicate mindlessness in the first case, and maliciousness in the second. Cheerfulness is a heart matter, says the verse. It’s an inside job that is not oblivious to circumstances, only aware of the extenuating circumstances—God. It comes from that “joy that passeth all understanding.” And to quote Bridges again, “In the sensation of joy, the heart sits smiling in the face, and looks merrily out the windows of the mind.” (Don’t you love that?)

         Then, a merry heart will turn your life into a banquet (15:5). That’s saying a lot, isn’t it? Jesus said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6). Being “filled with the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19) will curb any heart hunger for this world; but allowing the Holy Spirit to infuse us with His enthusiasm for the life in Christ, can change a “square meal” into a veritable feast! Are you following me here?

         Finally, is it any wonder then that the result of all this is that a merry heart will give you a shot in the arm, physically, as well (17:22)? Everybody knows exercise is good for you and laughter has been called, “internal jogging.” It’s both a stimulant to a fainting heart and a sedative to a nervous soul. When the oil of gladness is poured over a gaping wound, healing commences.

         So let the merry-making—or rather, the merry-living--begin! Let it not be the hollow hilarity of this world, but let it be the resounding joy of the Redeemed. The Puritans were not known for their frivolity, but when it comes to fellowship, I agree with the famous pastor and author, Richard Baxter, who wrote: “Keep company with the more cheerful sort of the godly; there is no mirth like the mirth of Believers.”

         Amen! and Woo Hoo!

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