Tuesday, November 2, 2004

The Secret of a Merry Heart

All the days of the afflicted are evil,
But he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.
(Proverbs 15:15)
Let there be no doubt — a merry heart is better! What we see reflected in this proverb is an attitude and a priority. Some people look for the silver lining to a dark cloud, others look for the dark cloud to a silver lining. But the priority, and I believe the real reason for a merry heart, is spelled out in the next proverb:
Better is a little with the fear of the LORD,
  Than great treasure with trouble.
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is,
  Than a fatted calf with hatred.
(Proverbs 15:16-17).
There is nothing wrong with having great treasure and feasting on a fatted calf. May the Lord bless you and me with both! But they are insufficient to satisfy our hearts. What we really need is to walk in the fear of the LORD and in love.

Now, some people might conceive of the fear of the LORD and love to be two different and contradictory things. But such people really misunderstand both. They are not separate, nor does one contradict the other. They are actually two ways of looking at the same thing.

The fear of the LORD is not a matter of cringing in terror, it is a matter of respect and awe and reverence. Have you ever stood at the top of the Empire State Building or gazed out over the Grand Canyon. We call such views “breath-taking,” so stunning that they take your breath away for a moment. It is awesome, or to use an old word in an old way, it is awful (read “awe-full,” full of awe). That is what the fear of the LORD is like — living in recognition of the awesomeness of God and His powerful greatness.

The other side of this equation is love. “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is.” As much as we should live in constant awareness of God’s great and awesome power, we should also dwell and meditate on the awesomeness of His love.

The man who learns to walk in the fear of the LORD and dwell in the love of God will have a continual feast. For this is the secret of a merry heart.