Early in Scripture, we are commanded to celebrate: “Thou shalt surely rejoice” (Deuteronomy 16:15). The instructions are clear. Israel achieved it with a “solemn” feast. Why didn’t someone tell us we can be solemnly happy?
Bob Marley came close in his “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” song. So get your umbrella drink, sit alone in the sun, and just be happy. Better yet, let’s stick together and keep searching for God’s glory.
Proverbs 15-17 is a useful meditation here. The underlying theme is our personal interaction and how it affects our spirit. This poetic wisdom is all about God’s glory in our hearts and how we need each other to accomplish this with joy.
“A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken” (15:13). “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones” (17:22).
Before we can experience full joy, let’s try to understand the sorrow through which our spirits are broken. The word sorrow here is related to idol in the sense of carving or fashioning, and wounding.
When we are wounded by others, our heart suffers scars. Our scars are like an idol when they cause us to become unmoving — one definition of an idol. In our woundedness we can set ourselves, refuse to move, and erect walls around our position. Before we know it, the holy land we are mandated to occupy is dotted with walled positions on every hill and gopher mound because of the wounds we’ve suffered.
But these proverbs are written as contrast. Wounds either drive us into lonely positions that repress our responsibility to move forward, or they cause us to respond and seek truth and meaning in our relationships. It is by the very same interaction with one another that our hearts are healed like a medicine, which can be translated as cure. The outcome is often dependent on the “counsellors” we feast with (15:22). “He that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast”
This brings us back to God’s command to rejoice. God does not give a command without instruction, a sorrow without joy, a judgment without grace, or a curse without blessing. We have reason to rejoice because we are blessed. With a command to be happy, our only other choice is songs of denial.
We cannot partake of the glory of God alone. Through the grace and mercy of God we can enter into His present glory through Christ, but not without His body, the church. Let us meditate on the interactive contrasts in these proverbs and commit them to heal and knit our hearts together. For “where two or more are gathered in his name there am I in the midst.”
The glory of God in our heart is not alone; it is the joy of the Lord’s redemption and community, as commanded.BA