A Merry Heart
1. Vs. 13-15 speak of the heart… and in particular that which makes for a merry heart.
2. A large percentage of the American population is on antidepressants.
a. That tells us that possessing a merry heart is a problem in our land. Everybody wants one… but few people have it!
b. The treatment I’m on for my virus is a depressant… and after 7 months on a depressant, I’m sure I’m not the best poster boy for a cheerful countenance…
c. But this is the next verse, so I’m going to teach what it says—even if it hurts!
A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance
1. Merry = the word for rejoice; to be glad.
a. Ps. 113:9 – He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children.
b. When a barren woman bears a child, she has the kind of heart described in Prov. 15:13.
c. In this case, the favorable circumstances resulted in a merry heart: barrenness was turned to motherhood!
d. There is a place for joy and rejoicing. It is essential to being a whole, balanced, well adjusted person. That’s the way God made us!
2. When the heart is merry on the inside—it shows on the outside (countenance).
a. This countenance will be CHEERFUL: “good, pleasing, glad”.
b. The barren mother probably looked a bit gloomy at times when she was barren.
c. But rest assured, when she brought her baby home, she glowed! It changed her countenance… to cheerful!
d. Changing circumstances can change the condition of our heart… and the condition of our heart is reflected in our countenance.
3. But the condition of our heart as a CHRISTIAN ought not to be determined by circumstances!
a. The condition of our heart ought to be determined by our relationship to Christ! (Ps. 42:11 – HE is the health of my countenance!)
b. If we are close to HIM… then even the barren woman can have the joy of the Lord. She might be sad over her barrenness, but that does not diminish her joy in the Lord! The man who losses his job may be sad about that, but it is not crushing IF his focus is on Christ… because CHRIST is the true source of our joy.
c. We are told to rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS.
• And circumstances aren’t always favorable! Oftentimes they are considerably less than favorable!
• But we are to rejoice anyway!
• Our joy has a source other than circumstances.
• And notice that we are commanded to rejoice, but our joy is completely separated from circumstances.
• We are to rejoice in the LORD… not in favorable circumstances!
d. Hab. 3:17-18 – Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: 18Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
4. Solomon’s point is that a merry heart is GOOD for your countenance.
a. Countenance = face; front; presence; one’s overall body language, especially facial expression.
b. The condition of the inner man is expressed outwardly by the outer man… the body. That is by God’s design.
c. Prov. 17:22 – A merry heart doeth good like a medicine
• Just as medicine is good for the body, the outer man, so a merry heart is good for the inner man.
• Solomon may even have had in mind the fact that a merry heart does the BODY good too.
» There is definitely a connection between body, soul, and spirit.
» We humans are a unit.
» That which affects our inner man also affects our body: worry; anxiety; fear; hatred; bitterness.
• It is GOOD to be happy… merry… joyous… upbeat. It is healthy to be cheerful… healthy physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
• Wholesome mirth and merrymaking is good for your countenance; it’s good for your inner life!
• It’s also good for the people around you!
» It’s good for your spouse and kids when YOU are cheerful!
» It’s good for your brethren in the local church when you are cheerful.
» It’s good for the people at work when you are cheerful!
» It’s hard to live with a person who never has anything good to say… everything is negative… always sour… never sees the silver lining; can only see the dark cloud… always nit-picking… complaining… generally unhappy and miserable! Nothing’s good enough…
• That’s a terrible way to live. It’s a terrible training for our kids who watch us every day. They are learning HOW to be a person by observing dad and mom.
• But a merry heart does GOOD.
» Living cheerfully with your wife at home is the best training your kids will ever have.
» God instituted feast days in Israel—times of festivity and joy and celebration. It is GOOD for man to experience such festivities and opportunities for merriment and rejoicing.
» If you are more like the one who never sees the silver lining—you need to get out more often!
» Get out to times of fellowship more often.
» Don‘t sit around in your gloomy world all day. Open the windows… let in some light… fill your mind and heart with the Word… and spend time with God’s people. Smile!
» Do something fun. We can lift one another’s spirits.
» It isn’t worldly to be merry. God says it’s good for us!
But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken
1. Neh. 2:1-3 – Nehemiah’s countenance was sad and it was obvious to onlookers.
a. External events/circumstances (condition of his people) made Nehemiah’s heart sad.
b. That sad heart was seen in his countenance… face. He couldn’t hide it—even though it could have meant his job… even his life.
2. Like it or not, external events DO affect our hearts… and this is quite normal and natural.
a. Who isn’t saddened at the death of a loved one? Who wasn’t affected by the events on 9/11? Whose heart wouldn’t be sad if your house burned down?
b. Who doesn’t grieve over the moral decline in our country… and even more so the spiritual decline in the churches?
c. This kind of grief and sorrow is normal and natural.
d. Ezek. 9:4 – In Ezekiel, the identifying mark of the godly remnant was the fact that they grieved over the awful spiritual decline and the abominations in their country.
e. It’s not a sin to be sad or sorrowful. Jesus was a “Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isa.53:3)
f. Phil. 3:10 – Paul states that the godly of this age FELLOWSHIP in Christ’s sufferings and sorrows… as we lead holy, separated, godly lives.
g. There are times when it is RIGHT to be full of sorrow and grief… just like Jesus our Lord.
3. Proverbs 15:13 is not teaching that it is WRONG to experience sorrow of heart.
a. Rather, the proverb is a WARNING: sorrow and grief CAN break the spirit!
b. Sorrow and grief in their time and place are right, normal, and natural.
c. Ecc. 3:4 – A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
• There is a time to weep. There is also a time to STOP weeping… and to return to laughing.
• Some folks experience the death of a loved one and refuse to be comforted. They refuse to laugh and to join into life again… thinking that if they attend a festive activity or begin to laugh again, it would be insulting to the lost loved one. If that person loved you, they would NOT want you to remain in misery!
• And what about insulting GOD? Do you think God is pleased if we refuse comfort?
→ II Cor. 1:3 – Where does comfort come from, if not the God of all comfort? (That’s the Father’s name!)
→ The Holy Spirit is the Comforter according to John 14:16-17.
→ Jesus Christ is the Comforter according to I John 2:1.
→ God also uses His Word to encourage and comfort hearts full of sorrow.
→ In addition, God uses His people to encourage and comfort hearts.
→ God is the GOD… the Source of all true comfort.
→ So when God sends comfort to our hearts… RECEIVE it! Don’t refuse to be comforted! Submit to His comfort in whatever form it takes!
→ ALLOW Him to comfort your grief stricken heart.
d. There is a normal and natural period of grieving after the death of a loved one… but to wallow in grief… to refuse to be comforted…
• There seems to be a morbid delight some folks have in wallowing in their sorrow…
• This behavior is DANGEROUS!
• Over time, it can crush the spirit…
• Prov. 17:22 – a broken spirit drieth the bones. The bones can take a lot… they can bear much, but over TIME… if the sorrow continues unabated… it will eventually dry out the bones—
» This is a picture of a withered inner man!
» A broken spirit will eat at you from the inside out!
» Once again, we have a picture of the effect of our emotions on our body: on our whole being.
» It is dangerous to continue in grief and sorrow and to refuse to be comforted.
• II Cor. 2:7 – So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.
» Swallowed up = devoured; destroyed.
» The assembly was commanded to forgive this brother, lest his spirit be broken, and his spiritual life be destroyed!
» There is a time and place for grief. There is also a time and place for grief to end.
• Prov. 18:14 – A wounded spirit, who can bear?
• Unending grief… sorrow that refuses to be comforted… can make life unbearable… miserable… intolerable.
• WHO can bear it? The implied answer is no one! You are not the exception!
• A wounded spirit makes life unbearable… and it can lead to suicide… and it has many times over.
• A broken spirit seems even WORSE than a wounded spirit… but actually, wounded and broken are the same Hebrew terms.
• Thus, by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken… and that broken spirit is unbearable!
• A wounded or broken spirit seems to be inoperative… broken and unable to function as designed.
• If that broken spirit REFUSES to be comforted… if it refuses the comfort God sends… if it insists in wallowing in grief… it may arrive at a place where it CAN’T function… it is STUCK in depression…
• The one who is offered comfort and refuses to be lifted out of the miry clay may discover that, if they persist in that condition, when they WANT to get out… they may not be able to!
• God is the Source of all comfort. If we refuse the source of all comfort… we may not have that opportunity again for a long time. Don’t put God to the test.