As I stood in line at the grocery, my thoughts were interrupted by the young man in front of me. 

“Are you okay?” he asked.

Startled, I looked up. “Yes.” 

“You’ll get through it,” he said. “Whatever it is.” 

I gave him a baffled look.

“You just look so sad, ” he said.

I wasn’t sure how to answer. I was discouraged, but I had no idea my discouragement would attract attention.

As I reflected on the incident, I thought—The first thing a stranger notices is my sad face? Really? Why wasn’t I noticing others? Joseph, falsely accused and thrown in prison, noticed the faces of his fellow prisoners. What’s my problem?

Just as the voice of the accuser started to compound my former discouragement—I changed mental channels by turning on a worthwhile audio book. I did need to process, but not by further derailing myself while discouraged. 

Just 24 hours after the grocery-store encounter, I picked up a bracelet from a friend who does custom engraving. A few weeks ago, God used my time in worship and a message from church to drive home 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. 

Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. 

This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.

My takeaway? Three words: Cheerful. Prayerful. Thankful. Those are the words I had engraved on my bracelet. Clearly, I need the reminder of those thee words as meditation points. 

As I’ve thought about how to make my face cheerful, I remembered the 1988 study by Strack, et all. In their research study, they had a group of people put pencils sideways in their teeth. This had the effect of forcing their cheeks up. While being forced to smile, people in the study found funny cartoons to be more humorous than groups that were not smiling. 

Pencil-in-the-teeth therapy is not likely to make a lasting impression. In order to truly change my face for good, I need to go deeper. Proverbs 15:13 says—A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face; a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day.

I don’t know of anything that can make my heart sad faster than my shame. Thanks to the comment of that stranger, I realized I had selected specific recent events in my life to think about in light of past shame. The events themselves were not that bad, but the way I was interpreting what they meant about me and about my future was devastating. 

Two other passages gave me a plan of attack to fight back against the thoughts that were weighing me down. 

Strategy 1—Words

Proverbs 12:25 speaks of the power of cheerful words to pick us up when we are weighted down.

When I see the word CHEERFUL on my bracelet, I want the full impact of all God has to say about rejoicing and cheerfulness. I’m excited deep dive into these topics in his Word.

Strategy 2—Songs

Proverbs 15:15 in The Message speaks of a cheerful heart filling the day with song. 

I love the powerful, Scripture-based lyrics from each Sunday at church. I’m printing out the ones I need the most and taping them where I will see them and sing them often. 

I was humbled by the stranger at the grocery. And I’m grateful for his kindness. We should never underestimate the power we have when we notice others and ask compassionate questions. 

Now, I’m curious. What had God used to help you develop your cheerful heart and face? 

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