Living Effectively for Christ Day 10 – Being Cheerful
“A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.” (Proverbs 15:13, ESV)
We live in a very self-serving and self-obsessed world. How else can we explain the existence of self-serving social media (of which I am guilty) and the self-obsession seen in the mountains of selfies people post? Paul mentions in 2 Timothy 3 that in the last days “people will be lovers of self.” Well, it looks like we’re definitely in the window of the last days if this generation’s self-love is any indication!
I know a lot of you probably disagree with me, but I truly feel this generation’s push to loving self (which has taken center stage in much of Christianity) is dangerous. Faith-based/Christian songwriters that I once respected highly are writing songs about “still trying to love myself” (not going to name names). Self-love, self-acceptance for who we “really are,” and other such things that are regularly taught in Christian circles serve to propagate the idea of thinking of ourselves before thinking of anyone else. When we do this, we live and think against the teachings of Jesus, and our thoughts and attitudes are wrapped around our own circumstances. Our disposition towards joy or towards sorrow will dictate our feelings or emotions, leaving us subject to wild roller-coast swings in our interactions with others.
Is that how our cheerfulness is to be dictated? I admit that it can be difficult to be cheerful when we are dealing with sorrow or loss or shame. But what is my typical demeanor? Am I a cheerful person to the point that people look at me and wonder, “Why does he always seem so happy?” I believe Christians should be that way. We shouldn’t constantly appear glum, bored, disinterested with life, angry, sad, or down in the dumps. None of that is a good advertisement for a Spirit-filled life! Who would want the Christ I have if I’m always down? And we can talk about our circumstances—how can I be cheerful when you hear what I’ve been going through? I can sympathize with that, sure, but we also need to consider people in the New Testament before we let our circumstances dictate our cheerfulness.
In Acts 5, the apostles were arrested, nearly killed, and ultimately beaten before they were released. Their response was that they were “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” Paul, a man often arrested, beaten, scourged, and nearly killed, wrote that we should “rejoice in our sufferings” (Romans 5:3). Or look at Peter, a man who would eventually be martyred on a cross. He wrote in 1 Peter 4 that we should “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings,” and “if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name” (vs. 13,16). Or even think about Paul and Silas, beaten with rods and thrown in prison. What did they do? They prayed and sang hymns to God (Acts 16)! I would think if anyone should have had a dour disposition, it should have been men like Paul and Peter. They were constantly facing persecution, physical violence, angry mobs, loss of family and friends, and loss of wealth. But they rejoiced—they were cheerful!
I honestly believe that having a cheerful disposition and a joyful attitude makes a positive difference in how people view us. Instead of being Mr. Negative or Debbie Downer, how about we try something different? There is plenty of negativity and sarcasm and discouragement in the world today. Shouldn’t we want to stand out as being separate from that? Another one of my pet peeves is the obsession in Christianity with trying to be “authentic” and not a “fake Christian.” While I wouldn’t advocate being a hypocrite, I do think that a Christian whose “authentic self” is negative, discouraging, sarcastic, quick to put down others, and generally not fun to be around isn’t what we should be striving for. Maybe we should dig deeper within ourselves. If we are truly Christians, then we have the Holy Spirit within us to help us bring forth the fruit of the Spirit, which is partially characterized by joy (that which leads to cheerfulness). So cheer up, folks, and live out that cheerfulness!