A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
Operating as the control center of your very being, your heart calls the shots for your motivations, your attitudes, your perspectives, and the influence you have on others. Every time you walk up to somebody, you will influence them in one direction or another. You can either cast a pall of discouragement and depression over them, or you can encourage them to joy and peace. Of course, they will still reserve the right to reject your encouragement (or discouragement). But one way or another, either consciously or subconsciously, they pick up the signals of your heart.
It is therefore important to do a heart check on occasion, as you interact with others either in personal or business relationships. While it is not necessarily sinful to experience grief, you must ask yourself why you are grieving. Are you grieving out of true love for others, or are you grieving for your own sake? There is also an appropriate time to grieve, and a time to laugh (Eccl. 3:4). Excessive sorrow and discouragement over time will sap your motivations and inhibit your daily work. Nobody really wants to buy anything from a depressed salesman, and nobody is edified all that much by a brother in the church who is in a state of constant discouragement.
The general direction of our hearts will be upbeat, hopeful, and joyful only if we believe in the final resurrection and glorification of body and soul. For if our hearts rejoice in the resurrection of Christ and our own resurrection in Him, what possible discouragements met with between now and then could ever extinguish that joy?
The heart of him that has understanding seeks knowledge: but the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness.
The reason why men do not seek God or true understanding lies in their hearts. This is why the Old Testament calls for a “circumcision of heart,” and the New Testament calls for a heart washing and renewal (Deut. 10:16, 30:6, 1 Cor. 5:11, 2 Cor. 4:16). You can try to clean up a dog’s manners and you can teach a pig to flush a toilet, but these animals will always revert back to their animal ways because that is their basic nature (Prov. 26:22, 2 Pet. 2:22). Likewise, a fool may reform his ways on occasion, but he will always meander back to his old ways. His true nature is foolishness and his heart does not seek true knowledge.
The understanding heart can tell truth from error. This man may not be a seminarian. He may not be all that well-educated, but he has a basic sense that enables him to sniff out truth and error. Accompanying this discerning sense is a desire to learn more. While others consider themselves already entirely “reformed and sufficiently informed,” this man is always reforming, and always open to correction in his thinking and life.
Yet, Paul also speaks of those who are “ever learning, but never coming to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). They start out always reforming, but it is not long before they have reformed their way clear out of the Word of God! These fools are tossed about “with every wind of doctrine,” because fundamentally they lack a discerning spirit. Without this heart of understanding, they will seek out a pseudo-knowledge. This is how millions are led astray by each new aberrant cult that comes down the pike.
All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart has a continual feast.
God’s Word determines what is good and what is right for us. How else could we determine what is of true value and what produces value in our lives? This proverb provides a clear definition of evil. The poor man begging on the street is in an evil condition indeed! But Evolutionists, Marxists, and Materialists have no reason to call that evil. After all, how could you consider the condition of one piece of cosmic dust any better or worse than that of any other piece of dust?
While it is true that suffering in a fallen world is essentially evil, a man under affliction may still rejoice in his condition. He does not have to react in bitterness against God for the severity of his trials. If some poor Lazarus must live the life of unremitting affliction, he may yet rejoice in the hope of future comfort (Luke 16:25). In faith, he will hold to the promise that the troubles of this present age are not worthy to be compared with the glory that awaits him (Rom. 8:18).
Both statements in the proverb stand alone, and the second statement must not be taken as opposing the former. According to Christ, an afflicted man could very well rejoice and be exceeding glad (Matt. 5:12). He may enjoy a continual feast as he rejoices in his sufferings. Your basic outlook on life will either make the journey a pleasant one or a miserable one. It’s your call. Will you have a happy life or a miserable one? It depends on whether the basic outlook of your heart is optimistic (hopeful) or pessimistic (hopeless).
1. What hopes, beliefs, and expectations will produce a happy and upbeat life for you? Do you really believe in those things?
2. Are we always seeking to gain true knowledge and reform our lives by it? Or are we unwilling to increase in knowledge and receive correction? Are we a semper reformanda (always reforming) family? Do we also have discerning hearts to know when a particular “reforming agenda” might reform us clear out of the Word of God? What change might actually constitute an unhealthy change