A Cheerful Heart
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones…” Proverbs 17:22
Not advil or asprin. Alcohol or addiction. Not even a friend or a fun event. But the best medicine for the soul, according to the verse above is a cheerful heart.
You might say, “Well that’s nice, but if you only knew my situation, you would know I don’t have much to be cheerful about.”
That’s fine, but hear me out. Let’s look at how the word itself is defined:
cheerful |ˈ ch i(ə)rfəl|
1. noticeably happy and optimistic
2. causing happiness by its nature or appearance
The second definition caught my attention. Cheerfulness causes happiness, not the other way around. Sometimes I think I have to be or feel happy in order to be cheerful. But this definition suggests otherwise; that if we have the appearance of being cheerful, happiness is the result.
As I write this, I just missed a flight I was supposed to catch. It was a frustrating situation and it took all my energy and a whole lot of praying to keep myself from blowing up at the lady at the counter. It wasn’t her fault, but she would have been an easy target to let off some steam.
One could argue that such a downer of a situation would yield anything but a cheerful response. But then I remembered the verse. A cheerful heart is good medicine. It didn’t say a cheerful heart is good medicine only in good situations. A cheerful heart is good medicine even in the worst of situations. The question is, are we choosing to be cheerful?
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t downright bummed about missing that flight. But I realized I didn’t have to let the emotions of disappointment and irritation of the situation outside my control dictate my level of happiness. Instead, I chose to be cheerful, thanking the woman at the counter for doing all she could. I smiled politely and walked away. I started humming my favorite tune and said a silent prayer to God thanking Him for His higher purposes even though I did not understand them at the time. I made the necessary phone calls and chose to sound upbeat and positive, rather disappointed and negative.
And guess what?
Cheerfulness came. As I gave the appearance of cheerfulness, I actually felt it. As the saying goes, sometimes we have to “fake it until we make it.” I am not saying we deny our emotions and pretend like everything is okay when it’s not. But there is power in willing ourselves to act in ways that are contrary to our emotional reactions to situations outside our control.
Things happen in life that plain stink. Hard times come our way. Difficulties arise. We cannot control or stop these things from happening. But we can control how we respond. And sometimes all we need is a cheerful heart to turn a bad situation into a better one.
A cheerful heart is a choice. And it really is the best medicine. Go on, try it!
Action Plan: Take a moment to pause and reflect over the last week. Note some of your responses to things that happened that were outside your control (i.e. a person being late, a meeting being cancelled, a loved one getting sick, etc.). Make a choice to have the appearance of a cheerful heart in your interactions and responses this week. You’ll never find a better medication for your soul.
Or if you need some help, just look at this photo. 😉