-A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.
The Hebrew word translated into ‘merry’ is ‘sameach’, which means: merry, joyful, or rejoicing. Often we can discover a lot about the intent of the Greek or Hebrew word in which the scripture was written by looking at the ways it can be translated into English. In this case, it’s clear God is referring to a rejoicing heart. Those who have a heart of rejoicing experience the life that God intends for all to enjoy.
A rejoicing heart does not arise from a life that exists without problems, but from a life that sees with eyes of faith. During the beginning of the church, shortly after Christ’s resurrection, Christians experienced intense persecution. The Roman government viewed them as a threat because they did not honor Caesar over Christ. The Jewish people from which they came viewed them as a threat because this new sect was believed to be undermining the Law of the Old Testament. Yet they were encouraged by God to take joy in the midst of their circumstances.
The believer was instructed with words of encouragement, such as, “You are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, so rejoice with exceeding joy,” “The sufferings of this life are not comparable to the joy to come,” and “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad.” Acts 14:22 explains how the apostles visited the churches, encouraging them by saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”
Telling others that tribulation lies ahead is a source of encouragement? It is if we understand what is on the other side. The Bible tells us that Jesus despised the cross and endured its shame by setting His heart on the joy that lay before Him. That joy was our reconciliation to Him so we could be restored to the state we were created to enjoy with God. His joy was not in the cross, but in what lay beyond the cross. We are commanded to have this same mindset so we do not become discouraged in our souls.
Whether in peace or war, comfort or tribulation, love or conflict, we can still have a merry heart by looking beyond our struggles and to the purpose God has called us to. Everyone has problems, but our attitude determines how we handle those problems. Some draw their attitude from selfish desire, while others learn to draw their attitude from looking beyond circumstance and to our final destiny. Even in hardship, the Christian can have a merry heart that restores our soul. This is why the Bible says that the joy of the Lord is our strength. He renews us even while we are in the storms of life. Consider Proverbs 15:15-17
15 All the days of the afflicted are evil, But he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.
16 Better is a little with the fear of the LORD, Than great treasure with trouble.
17 Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, Than a fatted calf with hatred.
Notice, things are not the source of happiness. Nor are they the cause of rejoicing. We can have the good things of life and still be surrounded by bitterness and strife. We can also be in the midst of affliction and still discover a merry heart. A merry heart is one that looks at life through the eyes of faith. A merry heart walks through the valley of the shadow of death with confidence, because it trusts in the Lord as their shepherd. A rejoicing heart is not focused on the valley, but in the author and finisher of the faith – Jesus Christ.
A merry and rejoicing heart is not the heart that looks for the pleasures of life, but the one that rejoices in what God is doing for our eternal good. Just as the Bible says we can enjoy the table of the Lord’s feeding in the midst of our enemies, we can also enjoy a continual feast in any circumstance. The soul of the righteous will never famish. This is true because they are expectantly looking to the Lord instead of demanding a change in their direction. Even more so, the merry heart enjoys fellowship with the Lord.
The feast of the Lord is present with us in every valley, but also true is that a green pasture waits to refresh us at the end of each tribulation. Even so, the pasture is not the destiny – the finish line is Christ. Our true joy is in fellowship with God. A merry heart is one that discovers a consistent intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. In that we all can rejoice!
A merry heart is a choice – and an act of faith as we trust the Lord’s work in our lives.
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