Saturday, January 21, 2017

Proverbs 17:22 -- On Merry Hearts

"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones."
Proverbs 17:22


I love this scripture. Sometimes the worst thing that we can forget is happiness. God tells us that "men are, that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25). That means that joy is the very reason for our existence. It's what God is working for, and what we are working for with him. Loving God and loving our neighbors, the two great commandments--that's supposed to help us all have joy.

I think the whole "let your light so shine" (Matthew 5:16) idea is also part of this. Good works are part of it, but how can we be an awesome example for others if we are always sad and complainy? We set a much better example, and show people that God brings happiness when we look for, and promote, the good in the world around us. This scripture shows a little of that idea: "Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord" (Psalms 144:15).

I'm not saying that it is always easy to feel or show happiness, or even that sorrow in itself is a bad thing. We all cry sometimes, and that emotional release isn't a reason to feel guilty. But unless we have some serious clinical depression, we don't need to stay sad except in the short-term. Even in the midst of sorrow, God can lift up our hearts, and hope and joy is a choice that we can make, if we put in the effort. As Russel M. Nelson said, "the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives" (from his talk "Joy and Spiritual Survival"). That idea is echoed in the scriptures as well. For instance, one of my faves is 2 Corinthians 4:8-9: "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; / Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." Everything can be melting down in our lives, and yet we can still choose happiness, and have faith in the Lord that everything will be okay.

Sometimes we think that everything in the gospel has to be deadly serious, and there is some merit in that.  I do think that we need to treat sacred things with respect and avoid being obnoxious or mocking and scorning.  However, I also think that there is a lot of room for enjoyment in addition to being serious.  I love this quotation from Gordon B. Hinckley: "Let there be something of a light tone in your life.  Let there be fun and happiness, a sense of humor, the capacity to laugh occasionally at things that are funny.  Today, let's work on having merry hearts.  It will do us good. :)  

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