All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.
A wonderful life is a choice – choosing to have a contented and joyful heart. Attitude is far more important than circumstances. Some can be happy in poverty, while others are miserable in prosperity. An evil life – filled with trouble, pain, and misery – is also a choice. Negative and discontented people choose to let circumstances or foolish feelings destroy their lives. Positive and contented people have a party most every day.
Here is one of the greatest proverbs. Read it again. Think about its words. Read it again. Consider its value. It teaches the difference between a miserable life and a wonderful life. What more could you want? And it will not cost you a cent! Solomon the Preacher gave it to you in 20 precious words of beauty and rhythm. No wonder David said God’s word was more valuable than gold, sweeter than honey, and brings great reward (Ps 19:10-11).
Context, usually not significant in Proverbs, gives inside wisdom from the wisest king and the only wise God (Pr 15:16-17). After spending his life and fortune trying everything to find happiness and purpose in life, Solomon contrasted and ranked meals and lifestyles. A continual feast is within the reach of every reader. It is your choice to avoid the pain, darkness, and sorrow of the hopeless life (Eccl 5:10-20).
Evil in this proverb is not sin: it is trouble, without peace or pleasure. An evil life in this sense is hard, painful, and miserable. Scripture uses the word evil this way (Job 2:10; Is 45:7; Amos 3:6). It is how Jacob described his hard life (Gen 47:9). His brother and father-in-law hated him; his four wives were envious; he had a perpetual limp; his sons were liars, incestuous, envious, and murderers; his favorite wife died in childbirth; and his favorite son was supposedly killed by wild beasts. Your life is not nearly so bad.
Afflictions – trouble, difficulties, and disappointments – occur in a sinful world. David said the righteous have many afflictions, though the Lord does deliver them (Ps 34:19). How you look at your troubles makes all the difference in the world. Do you think about them, talk about them, focus on them, and imagine a few extra? Do you let the devil drag your spirit down to the hell of depression and a defeated life? God forbid!
If you let down your guard and choose the negative outlook of a discontented complainer, you can list a thousand afflictions or problems most any time. But 99% of them are insignificant and of no consequence, and the other 1% is totally overshadowed by numberless blessings God has graciously given. Do not let down your guard. Lift up your heart. Count your blessings instead of disappointments. There are many more of them.
You know complainers and murmurers. You can name some this minute. You are sick of them. When you see them, they have a new negative story, begging for your pity. They have a hangnail; they need more sleep; they’re short on money; their car needs brakes; they had to work overtime; their wife is nagging about a leaking roof; their husband works too many hours; she spent too much on groceries; he spent too much on hunting; the kids have colds; the government doesn’t use tax money right; no one in the church loves them; their parents haven’t sent money in two years; their ungrateful brother wants help moving a piano; their sister is always complaining; they’re overweight; they have gas; you forgot their birthday; and the Lord – does not answer their prayers fast enough!
All the days of the afflicted are evil! They want to be miserable, and they want you to be miserable also. They think they are modern Jobs, but they never had his character, cannot even imagine his trials, and would not know worship from warship. If you ask these miscreants what they are thankful for, they develop instant lockjaw. What profanity! These wretches should comfort the earth by hanging themselves. How does God deal with such people? He destroys them (I Cor 10:10; Deut 28:47-48). Thank you, Lord.
All the bad events that happen to the righteous are for four main reasons: the glory of God, the perfection of their faith, the chastening of their sins, or the consequences of their foolishness. Wisely considered, these are all good events! God’s glory should be your constant goal; growth in faith is a great blessing; chastening is proof of God’s love, and for your profit; and consequences drive you to wisdom. Thank you, Lord, for bad events!
A wise Christian only has good events in his life! Lift up your heart! Paul took pleasure in afflictions (II Cor 12:9-10), and James told you to count them all joy (Jas 1:2-4). Paul told you to rejoice alway (Phil 4:4; I Thess 5:16), so the Hebrew Christians rejoiced in losing their assets (Heb 10:34). Can you glory in your tribulations (Rom 5:3-5)?
The man with a merry heart hardly knows he has afflictions. He knows that things could be much worse. He almost mocks his present plight. All he sees is God’s glory, the blessings of life, and the hope of heaven. He can and will list a thousand things for which he is undeserving and very thankful. Oh, reader, will you be such a glorious man?
If your priorities are right, saltines and spinach are a two-course feast (Pr 15:17; 17:1). If you look to eternity’s weight of glory, earth’s afflictions grow strangely light (II Cor 4:17-18). Godliness with contentment is great gain, regardless of afflictions (I Tim 6:6). If you know Jesus Christ, what else in the world could you want (Heb 13:5; Ps 73:25-26)? If you are contented, you can be full without a meal (Phil 4:11-13). If Jesus Christ is having supper with you, who cares what is on the table (Rev 3:20).
Consider the six-fold economic affliction Habakkuk described (Hab 3:17-19). He listed total financial ruin, but the response of a merry heart says, “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.” Can you dance while unemployed?
Turn on the music, and dance. And you better dance with light feet, like the female deer. The LORD will bring you back to your high places. Believe it, before you faint in the hopelessness of afflictions (Ps 27:13-14). You should not be playing funeral dirges or melancholy music in your heart and mind, and you should not listen to it from a stereo.
Christian, if you are guilty of a negative outlook, repent of your wickedness, accept the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, and choose to be joyful in the Lord and thankful for your blessings. Your pastor will happily give you ten things for which you can give thanks. Joy is a command, not an option; it is a duty, not a response to improved circumstances.
God expects you to have a glad heart for the abundance of all things, and no people or nation has even imagined the prosperity Americans enjoy every day (Deut 28:47). To whom much is given, much shall be required, which brings your duty of choosing a merry heart to a high priority. The Spirit is warning you. You have enough to be happy.
Jesus Christ came to give His children the abundant life (John 10:10). This life is full of joy in fellowship with the Father and the Son (I John 1:3-4). How can you have it? Simple! Walk in the light of His holiness and confess your sins (I John 1:5-10). The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (Rom 14:17). Hope is the life-spring of joy, and believing saints are full of hope (II Thess 2:16; I Pet 1:3).
Take no thought for tomorrow; He will take care of it for you (Matt 6:34). Do not be anxious, worried, or fearful. Turn your needs over to the Lord, with thanksgiving, and He will give you peace that passes human understanding (Phil 4:6-7). Your life is good, if you are looking in the right direction, and it is only going to get better, by His goodness.
Christian reader, what is wrong in your life? Do not answer that question! Do not even think about it (other than sober and limited self-examination by the Holy Spirit). Look at the infinite God, Who loves you as His dear adopted child, and Who is preparing a new home for you to move to very soon. Count your blessings. Name them one by one.
What should you do with murmurers, who live an afflicted life full of misery? If they are temporarily cast down or weak in the faith, comfort and support them; if they are unruly in their complaining, warn and rebuke them (I Thess 5:14). If they are your children, punish their ungrateful and negative spirits (Eph 6:4). If you are basking in prosperity yourself today, rejoice with trembling, for your prosperity may not continue (Ps 2:11).
For the few who know the riches of Jesus Christ, they have a continual feast in this life that will extend uninterrupted into eternal glory and the marriage supper of the Lamb. The water at His banquet quenches thirst forever; the bread provides eternal life; His blood is everlasting soul nourishment. Seek Him today, reader, and do not stop until you find Him. There you will find fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Ps 16:11).