At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
“A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.”Proverbs 15:13
We can easily imagine situations where someone is keeping an upbeat attitude because he simply doesn’t understand how dire his problems are. There is such a thing as whistling in the dark, where the whistling doesn’t accomplish anything objective.
But there are also situations, like the one described in this proverb, where a merry heard equips, and a sorrowful hearts cripples or hobbles a man. A man whose spirit is “broken” is going to have trouble going on, even when his duty demands it. A man whose merry heart informs his countenance, and he goes into times of difficulty cheerfully, is a man who is better equipped to handle what he finds there.
John Wayne famously said that life is hard, and it is harder if you are stupid. We can modify this somewhat, and say that life is hard, life is already hard. It is harder if you are discouraged. It may not seem very pastoral, but I have often told people that there is no situation so bad but that you by your responses to it can’t make it worse. Things can always get worse, and giving up in despondency is one of the ways we make it worse.
When your legs are whole, you can walk on them. When your legs are broken, you cannot do so. When your spirit is whole, you can face the day. When your spirit is broken, you can’t face anything. And the way to a broken spirit, in this text, is by means of harboring sorrow in your heart.
A healthy sorrow is a process. There are stages, and you expect to get through. An unhealthy sorrow is a prison cell. You are just locked in, and by the end of your sentence, your spirit is maimed.