I read about a pastor who had this encounter with a supermarket clerk one day. As she scanned his savings card and his name came up on her computer, she stopped and looked him in the eye. “We always know when your church lets out on a Sunday—saddest, meanest group we deal with all week long.”
Ouch. How could the people who claim to have found the answer to their greatest problem—their sin—be the gloomiest, most hateful people who walk the streets? Furthermore, what does a gloomy Christian get out of being gloomy? Do we honestly suppose that by frowning and shuffling through life, not looking people in the eye, not thanking those who serve us for a job well done, not greeting people with a smile…do we honestly suppose that our day goes better as a result? Do we really believe that if we looked like we were weaned on a sour pickle that it will bless those around us and bring glory to the Lord? Somebody said, “If the joy of the Lord is in your heart, then why don’t you tell your face about it?”
Hannah Whitall Smith wrote about this very problem many years ago in a book called, “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life.”
I once heard of a poor woman who earned a precarious living by daily labor, but who was a joyous, triumphant Christian. “Ah, Nancy,” said a gloomy Christian lady to her one day, who almost disapproved of her constant cheerfulness, and yet envied it.
“Ah, Nancy, it is all well enough to be happy now, but I think the thoughts of your future would sober you. Only suppose, for instance, that you would have a spell of sickness, and be unable to work. Suppose your present employers should move away and no one else would give you anything to do. Suppose…” “Stop!” cried Nancy, “I never suppose. The Lord is my Shepherd, and I know I shall not want. And,” she added to her gloomy friend, “it is all those ‘supposes’ that are making you so miserable. You better give them all up and just trust the Lord.”
Nothing else but seeing God in everything will make us loving and patient with those who annoy and trouble us. They will then only be the instruments for accomplishing His tender and wise purposes toward us, and we will even find ourselves inwardly thanking them for the blessings they bring.
Mrs. Smith may have stumbled onto something that we would do well to investigate. She didn’t make this stuff up, you know. It was Paul who wrote from a jail cell: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” It was Jesus who cried from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It was David who said while running for his life from King Saul: “I have set the Lord always before me…therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.”
So, even if you are in prison for something you did not do, or being crucified for sins that belong to others or being chased down by bloodthirsty men, you can rejoice. And since I wager none of my readers fall into those three categories…why aren’t we smiling? What in the world have we got to be gloomy about? Is there any reason why we cannot be the most joyful people on the planet? Give up your ‘supposes’ and give thanks to the Lord.
Thanksgiving is not a holiday. It is a way of life.