Happy with a Little and God or Sad with A Lot?
“A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed…All the days of the afflicted are evil, but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast. Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.” (Proverbs 15:13-17)
“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)
Last night I didn’t feel like sleeping. I guess I just wasn’t tired enough. I was sure that today I would seriously regret my little three hours of sleep. But over the years I’ve gotten used to a limited weekly ration of sleep, so when I’ve “caught up” I don’t seem to need as many zs. It’s no fun to try to get to sleep when your body and mind want to stay awake. So most nights I don’t fight the insomnia battle. It’s just more enjoyable to let it go and drink a Boost Max for protein when I need it. My body is a little tired, but my heart is light and joyful, so that’s the best “sleeping” medicine for me (17:22). (But do not take this as advice if you work with sharp knives or drive heavy machinery.)
In our Proverbs 15 passage we learn, first of all, that gladness in our hearts shows up in cheerful faces. When our hearts are light and content, we smile with relaxed looks on our faces that brighten a room. However, when our hearts are distressed, our spirits are crushed, and our miserable disposition affects us physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially, and intellectually. No matter how stoic we think we are when dejected, the pretense will not hold up for long. Perhaps Solomon carries over this thought in verse 15 when he writes that “all the days of the afflicted are evil.” Honestly, I’m just taking a stab at trying to understand his meaning. When we see ourselves as stricken over a long period, the result will be that we lose hope and develop the worst possible perspective on life, as if God were doing something evil to us. In thinking this, we become rebellious toward him. Contrast that negative perspective with the continual feast with a cheerful heart (who trust God’s goodness and providence).
How can we have cheerful hearts? We can feast on herbs with the fear of the Lord, content with a little that is godly, rather than go out of our way to seek great wealth and a fat piece of meat. If we want trouble, we merely have to go looking for what we don’t have and don’t need. In Matthew Henry’s words, “A gloomy, impatient, unthankful spirit, springing from pride and undue attachment to worldly objects, renders a man uneasy to himself and others.” * When we turn our faces to that which we do not have, or if we think that our circumstances dictate God’s approval and acceptance of us, we are bound to lose any tranquility that we could otherwise have with Christ. Jesus is a fountain of forgiveness, mercy, grace, peace, love, contentment, strength, joy, patience, kindness, faithfulness, beauty, righteousness, freedom, and even self-control.
Every day we either choose the “little” of right now with Jesus or the “more” that drives us to crave and strive, giving up the restfulness that leads to a cheerful heart. What are you choosing today?
* Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible, Proverbs 15:15, https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-concise/