A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken. Proverbs 15:13
The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction. 2 Corinthians 1:3–4
There have been some bumps on our road these past few days. It started when I – getting up from my desk chair at home one Tuesday night – felt a sudden burning pain in my knee. I’d felt it before, and sure enough, after an MRI it was determined to be a torn meniscus. I’m thankful for cortisone; the relief it brought was immediate and significant – a source of my now-cheerful heart.
Wednesday night while at dinner with our visiting niece, Diane got a phone call that her Thursday flight to Seattle had been cancelled. She rebooked and finally got a ticket for Friday. Meanwhile I showed up for my re-scheduled flight on Thursday, only to discover 2 hours later that the flight was cancelled. I’m writing this onboard a Friday flight. Diane got her ticket on miles and leaves later than I do but will arrive before I do in Seattle! This is our holiday travel saga.
A more severe challenge has been the goings-on with family and friends. Illness, relationship issues, personal struggles of various kinds have intruded. A dear friend in Christ is battling stage four cancer. A fellow pastor also battles the disease. More people this year have been made known to me who need God’s help in various ways. Most of them are dealing with health issues. But others face marriage and family troubles, or financial and job issues.
There are plenty of reminders that we live in a fallen world, and God’s word does not ignore that fact. Any read of the Old or New Testaments will reveal that God’s star followers had feet made of clay. They each had their failures as well as their triumphs.
In the face of this, however, is the reminder that a cheerful heart is a blessing from God. My dad loved to quote the KJV of this proverb: “A cheerful heart doeth good like a medicine.” He took it seriously and would seek out comedy shows on TV (Tim Conway was his favorite). He concluded that laughter was the best medicine, and in his battle against cancer – which lasted 7 months – he did all he could to fortify himself with heavy doses of laughter and joy.
When the battle was ended, and cancer came to an end in his life, we were thankful for God’s promises and comfort. Others came around us and consoled us in our grief. Over time the pain subsided, and we found joy and happiness by God’s grace.
Those who have experienced God’s mercy and comfort in the face of the pain they have had to endure are best equipped to bring that same comfort to others. Doing so is not a matter of minimizing or denying the pain we experience. It is a matter of acknowledging the pain but offering hope and perspective in the face of it.
This Christmas was for me a great year of joy. I found delight in almost every corner. In spite of the afflictions that were all around us, there was joy. It was certainly so because of God’s faithful love as seen in the Christmas event. But it was also because God sent people to encourage me, and me to encourage others. This is a gift of God and an important reminder to us in good times and in bad.
The ultimate source of hope, comfort, peace, and courage is found in Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection and his anticipated second-coming. Through his incarnation Jesus not only showed with true faithfulness is, he also revealed the Father’s love for us, and by his death atoned for our sin. When he rose from the dead, he secured a hope that not even death can destroy. We have a hope and a future secured in God’s promises to us in Jesus Christ. From that springs a fountain of comfort, peace, joy, and consolation.