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The Value of a Cheerful Attitude
There is a time for everything...a time to weep and a time to laugh. Ecclesiastes 3
All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice,
Him serve with mirth, his praise forth tell
Come ye before him and rejoice.
Scottish hymn based on Psalm 100
Proverbs 17:22 says that a cheerful heart is good medicine. Haven't you found that to be true? I know that I feel better when I have a positive, hopeful attitude. Not only that, but the joy of others energizes me, too.
J. R. Miller wrote, "One of the divinest secrets of a happy life is the art of extracting comfort and sweetness from every circumstance. We must develop the habit of looking on the bright side...Those who take cheerful views find happiness everywhere; and yet how rare is the habit. The multitude prefer to walk on the dark side of the paths of life."
To see the dreary side of things seems to come easily to our fallen nature, especially if we are of a melancholy disposition. Complaining is common in this world, and, if we don't make a conscious decision to do otherwise, we may find ourselves participating in gripe sessions at work, at home, or on the Internet.
Miller wrote the following description in 1880, but we've all been around someone who fits the 21st century version. "There are those who take to gloom as a bat to darkness...They would rather nurse a misery than to cherish a joy....They appear to be conscientious grumblers, as if it were their duty to extract some essence of misery from every circumstance...They never find anything to their taste...They find fault with the food on the table, with the bed in which they lie, with the railroad-train or steamboat on which they travel, with the government and its officials, with merchant and workman, in a word, with the world at large and in detail."
On the other hand, we've all known people who radiate joy. As Miller writes, "There are rare people who always take cheerful views of life...They find some joy and beauty everywhere. If they sky is covered with clouds, they will point out to you the splendor of some great cloud-bank piled up like mountains of glory. When the storm rages, instead of ears and complaints, they find an exquisite picture in contemplating its grandeur and majesty. In the most faulty picture, they see some bit of beauty which charms them. In the most disagreeable person, they discover some kindly trait or some bud of promise. In the most disheartening circumstances, they find something for which to be thankful, some gleam of cheer breaking in through the thick gloom.
"When a ray of sunlight streamed through a crack in the shutter, and made a bright patch on the floor in the darkened room, the little dog rose from his dark corner and went and lay down in the one sunny spot, and these cheerful people live in the same philosophical way...Even in sorrow, their faces are illumined and songs come from the chambers where they weep. Such people have a wondrous ministry in this world. They are like apple trees which when covered with blossoms, pouring a sweet fragrance all around them."
God, through the apostle Paul, tells us, "Do everything without grumbling or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life." Phil. 2:14-16
Cheerful people do shine like stars, and they have a strong influence in the world. Christians who hold to the word of life with joy testify that the gospel really is good news. Their happy faith is good medicine for their spouses, for their children, for their extended families, for their brothers and sisters in Christ, and, most of all, for a dark and hurting world.
Sometimes, people who are of a gloomy, critical mindset are keenly sensitive. They feel their own and others' pain easily. They see life how it should be and have trouble making peace with anything that mars the good. It is only when sensitivity is combined with self-focus and a lack of faith that it becomes troublesome.. When focused on cheerfully helping others, this responsive nature can be a great gift.
Christian cheerfulness doesn't pretend that there are no problems in life, but it is based on a real and solid hope. Jesus said in John 16:33, I have spoken these things to you so that you shall have peace in me. You shall have suffering in the world, but take heart, I have overcome the world." It is Christ in us that gives us the power to embrace the cheerfulness that heals.