The Joy Of Gratitude
Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living | Be joyful always. 1 Thessalonians 5:16
In his book, How Bad Are Your Sins?, Lance Webb tells of the time Grimaldi, an entertainer and clown who made everybody laugh, went to a renowned Paris doctor complaining of deep depression. The doctor gave several suggestions including books to read and things to do, which didn’t seem to be received with much enthusiasm by the depressed man.
Finally he said, “I can think of only one other thing that would help you, and if that does not do it, there is nothing else I can suggest. Go and see that great clown that has come to the city and is drawing such crowds with his merriment. And if you suffer depression after hearing and watching him, I’ll be surprised.”
“Ah,” replied the downcast patient, “I am that clown.”
Have you noticed that often, a smiling face camouflages an aching heart, that people who really smile, smile with their hearts and their eyes show it? A loud laugh can really be a cover-up for a sad, empty life.
I have also noticed that some people, having gone through very, very difficult situations, still have a look of peace and serenity which shows through the lines on their faces. There is still a kind of joy which rises from their hearts like a mist that drives away depression. They aren’t trying to impress anyone. They are authentic, real, genuine.
Viktor Frankl, author of the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, was imprisoned by the Nazis in World War 2 because he was a Jew. His wife, his parents, and even his children were all killed in the holocaust. He alone survived. How did it leave him? Angry, bitter, hateful, revengeful? Strange as it may seem, the answer is negative.
Frankl later recounted how the Gestapo made him strip, and he stood there naked as they cut away his wedding band. But, said Frankl, “You can take away my wife, you can take away my children, you can strip me of my clothes and my freedom, but there is one thing no person can ever take away from me–and that is my freedom to choose how I will react to what happens to me!”
And that power, the power to decide how you will react to the circumstances of life, can bring a kind of joy which defies comprehension. This means you can have a measure of joyfulness rising like a mist from your soul when happiness has eluded you.
The Bible never suggests that you strive to be happy, but it does tell you to be joyful. Writing to the Thessalonians, Paul said so pointedly, “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:15-18).
Striving to pay back wrong for wrong produces a bitterness which becomes a cancer of the soul, and whatever joy may have been there slowly withers and dies.
In a real sense, joyfulness is a choice, a decision that you make which allows God the Holy Spirit to work in and through your life, shaping and molding the circumstances according to His sovereign will.
Your attitude has everything to do with it. If today’s commentary strikes a responsive chord in your heart, may I suggest that you read the text for yourself? Make a note of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians and discover what a tremendous difference these guidelines can make in your attitude.
Resource reading: Habakkuk 3.