Do you wake up each day with a cheerful heart? Or do sorrows and gloom reappear at each morning’s light? Are you facing life with optimism? Or is a dark cloud lingering over you?

“A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22

The apostle Paul experiences time as a prisoner in chains for sharing the gospel of his Lord Jesus Christ. Despite his situation, he chooses to maintain a cheerful heart… a heart that is optimistic and upbeat, loving and encouraging, positive and hopeful… a heart like Jesus. This is his secret in the face of imprisonment.

How easy it could have been for Paul to bemoan his predicament and succumb to self-pity. How tempting to harbor unforgiveness and bitterness toward his accusers. Yet Paul instead chooses to teach and encourage the new believers with whom he has shared the good news of Christ.

During his time under house arrest in Rome, Paul writes perhaps some of his most powerful letters. Known as the prison epistles… Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon… these letters are written to uplift the people in the churches he has planted on his missionary journeys.

“I have… been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.  Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.” – 2 Corinthians 11:23-26

Throughout his times of adversity, Paul chooses to look beyond his sufferings and spread the love of Christ. Upon viewing this list of the dangers he faced, it is amazing that he maintained a cheerful countenance. Yet we read of him in prison singing and praising God… sharing the gospel with the jailers… offering hope to the prisoners. Aboard a doomed ship, he exhorts his fellow passengers to persevere. Everywhere he travels, Paul emulates His Savior, sharing encouragement and hope.

“All the days of the oppressed are miserable, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast.” – Proverbs 15:15

Paul lives his life with a cheerful heart. Always he keeps Jesus as his first priority. He enjoys the continual feast of joy and contentment in his Lord that surpasses any trials he faces.

How can we enjoy the continual feast of a cheerful heart amidst our daily trials?

♦   Spend time with God

Our lives are to be centered on Christ. We can only come to know our Lord and become like Him by spending time with Him. Too often we try to wrestle with our problems on our own to no avail. Give all your anxieties and cares in prayer to the only One who has the power to help.

♦   Rise above your trials

Often, we let our attitudes be affected by our troubling circumstances. Although we cannot always control what happens to us, we can control how we respond. A right attitude, aligned with the Holy Spirit, can allow you to rise above your problems rather than be overcome by them. The sun is always shining above the clouds.

♦   Continually forgive

Wrongs will come against us daily. Harboring unforgiveness distances us from God and blocks our prayers. Release all unforgiveness towards others, yourself and God. God never needs forgiving, yet we may be wrongly blaming Him. Day by day, moment by moment, lay all bitterness and unforgiveness at the foot of His throne, knowing that His Spirit will help you truly forgive.

♦   Reflect on the good

The secret to a cheerful heart is to center our minds on all that is good, joyful, hopeful. Where your thoughts go, your actions will follow. Rather than dwelling on anxious thoughts, take all thoughts captive to Christ. Throughout your day, give Him any thoughts that dredge up negative emotions. Remember all your blessings. Be thankful for all the Lord has done for you.

♦   Express positivity

Our words are powerful. What we convey in our speech can affect how we feel. Negative words can cause us to feel worried, cheerless or disheartened. Positive words can lead to an optimistic outlook… a cheerful, hopeful heart. Speaking Scripture over your life will remind you of who you are in Christ and His promises for you.

♦   Find happiness in life

God desires that we enjoy the life He has given us. If we allow our troubles and sorrows to weigh us down, we cannot be uplifted by His Spirit. Each day, spend time with someone or engage in an activity that brings you happiness… that cheers you up… that lifts your spirit. Spend time in God’s Word to remember His love, His goodness, His grace.

♦   Be a blessing to others

When we step out and share God’s love, our focus is taken off our trials. Seek the good of others by giving of yourself… your time, your help, your encouragement. Your troubles will fade into the background. For a cheerful heart is a heart of compassion… a servant’s heart… a heart like Jesus.