“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down but, a good word makes him glad…A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.” (Proverbs 12;25; 15:13)
Yesterday my third great-nephew was born, which was an occasion of great joy for me. I was in close touch with his father and mother through her pregnancy and even received the first ultrasound image from them. When he arrived yesterday, it was a day of distracted celebration, even more than I expected. I received at least four pictures of his cute little face that I wanted to show to everyone. I was honestly surprised at the intensity of my happiness since I’m not a grandmother, just a blessed single great-aunt. I’ve had plenty of experience with anxiety and a sorrowful heart but not as much with a glad heart. Perhaps you’ve had more experience with gladness than sorrow. In either case, it is essential to know what weighs our hearts down and crushes our spirits, and what makes our hearts glad.
We’ve considered a guilty conscience and the accusations of Satan as two causes for a burdened heart. Let’s look at another discouraging, burdensome influence: The Law of God. Yes, you did just read that. God’s holy law is under consideration here, not his Word in its entirety but the specific Old Testament Law given to Israel, and that is still in effect for us today. The world and the devil like to throw The Law in our face to prove that we are guilty of breaking it. And we are. No one (except Jesus Christ) can obey the Ten Commandments. God does not expect us to keep them; “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). The Law cannot help us to obey it or God but reveals God’s righteous character to us and his standards for his people. The Ten Commandments are meant to be our tutor until the grace of God in Christ saves us. (See Galatians 4:1-5.) In this respect (only), the law is a burden and sorrow to our guilty, accused hearts.
The gospel, on the other hand, is the good word that gladdens our hearts and lifts our spirits. Jesus fulfilled The Law through the gospel and gave us the grace we need to obey God by his power, not ours. Through the gospel, we have forgiveness of sin, our greatest need and the only thing that can unburden our souls. Such was the case when “…some people brought to [Jesus] a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:2) The gospel grants us the ability to cast our anxieties on Jesus (1 Peter 5:7) and share encouraging words and deeds with others (James 2:18-22). Jesus is the source of our most profound joy imaginable.
How will you speak to yourself and others today? Will you pressure and burden yourself by misusing God’s the law as a hammer? Or will you graciously speak of mercy and forgiveness, gladdening you and others with the gospel?