Bring joy to your servant, Lord,
for I put my trust in you. (Psalm 86:4)
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said this simple prayer. Times I’ve lifted up my downcast soul to God hoping and praying something would happen to pick me up. More often than not, it doesn’t happen. At least not right away.
But that’s no reason to stop praying. This Psalm verse is targeted toward those of us who struggle with gladness. If gladness naturally resided in our souls, there would be no need to continually lift up such prayers to God. We need not be ashamed or embarrassed when gladness is absent from our lives. We shouldn’t see a lack of cheerfulness in our lives as evidence of a lack of faith. The solution is not to be found in doubling our efforts to be cheerful, but in surrendering our wills to the One who makes us glad.
I used to resent (mostly out of envy) people who would walk around with a smile constantly on their faces. I told myself they were either terribly naïve (thinking everybody who knew better was miserable like me) or hopelessly misguided (fooled into actually enjoying life in spite of how awful it truly was). I’ve since met many people who have struggled profoundly through dark valleys, such as the death of loved ones, yet who each day walk cheerfully in the light of Christ no matter their circumstances. These people have inspired me to cheer up, in spite of myself.