Formations 08.09.2020: The Gift of a Cheerful Heart

Proverbs 15:13-15; 16:23-24; 17:22

As a young mother at church when my girls were small, I would watch the older women, hoping for some insight and wisdom. Some days I just needed assurance that my kids would get through early childhood and still leave me a little sanity. When I think of the years my family attended that church, two older women come to mind. I’ll call them “Lynn” and “Alice.” They were very different from each other.

Lynn seemed to struggle with the changes in our fellowship. As more younger people attended and became leaders, she began to feel irrelevant. It was difficult to be friendly to her because she looked at our growing families with disdain, her mouth pinched and her forehead creased. When my husband, our friends, and I created a small praise band and brought guitars, modern music, and even drums into our worship services, Lynn sat stiffly in her pew, frowning, with her fingers stuck in her ears. Today I can laugh at her behavior, but back then it hurt my feelings. I found her cold, stiff, and angry. She was not the kind of elderly woman I wanted to be.

Alice, on the other hand, rode the swell of change with joy and kindness. After losing her beloved husband to cancer, she refused to let life’s sadness overcome her delight. Alice volunteered as a chaperone on a youth trip, and there are photos of her sitting in rollercoaster cars with teenagers, grinning from ear to ear. She joked about her tattoo, greeted me with hugs and smiles, and adored my little ones. Alice sang along when we offered our praise music during worship. She may have even clapped her hands a time or two. She was warm, involved, and cheerful. She is the kind of elderly woman I still hope to be.

For the record, Lynn did come around. As the months passed after she showed her distaste for our music, she got to know us and we got to know her. She began to adore our children and welcome the fresh energy we brought to the church. Maybe she even regretted the time she wasted on bitterness.

Our proverbs today highlight the benefits of “a glad heart”:

  • “a cheerful countenance,” lifelong learning, and a “feast” of joy (15:13-15).
  • “sweetness” and “health” (16:24).
  • “good medicine” (17:22).

Does this mean that those who cultivate a cheerful heart will never suffer? Of course not. Sweet Alice endured great loss as she watched her beloved husband suffer and die. She had other trials in her life as well. But her focus on joy gave her a reason to keep living and giving. It made her a witness to Christ for all who encountered her. It allowed her to move into her final years with gratitude.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones” (17:22). Do you want to feel young no matter how old you get? Cultivate a cheerful heart.

Discussion

  • Who do you know with a cheerful heart? What is that person like?
  • Do you know someone who is bitter and angry? Why do you think some people live that way?
  • Why can it be hard to have a cheerful heart?
  • How can we cultivate joy and gratitude no matter what we face in life? Why is it important to do so?
  • How can having a spirit of cheer show others the love of Jesus?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, and her husband John. Occasionally, she appears onstage in community theater productions and can sometimes be found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel movies, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who, and she’s still trying to write a young adult novel that her girls will enjoy.

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