Is the normal Christian life ‘happy all the time’?

My childhood days

Digging deep, a whole year into Covid-19 lockdown, I was surprised at the tsunami of ‘happiness songs’ that swept over me from my Sunday school days – threatening to choke me rather than inspire me! Number one in my infancy in Scotland (with appropriate actions) was:
‘Running over, running over, my cup’s full and running over.
Since the Lord saved me I’m as happy as can be.
My cup’s full [and so’s ma saucer’ = the naughty version!].

This picture comes from the best known psalm in the Bible – Psalm 23 (King James Version – ‘my cup runneth over’).

Another that we sang enthusiastically back then was:

‘Joy, joy, my heart is full of joy [x2]
My Saviour dear is ever near, that’s the reason why my heart is full of joy.’

And how about this one with actions you can guess for yourself:

‘I’m in-right, outright, upright, downright happy all the time; [x2]
Since Jesus entered in and took away my sin I’m [all of the above].’

Then we moved to South Wales where a visitor from London once tried to teach us youngsters in his broad cockney accent:

‘A little rain won’t matter if it’s right within [x2].
With Jesus in your heart those grey clouds will depart.
A little rain won’t matter if it’s right within.’

However, often during my youth I still, like Winston Churchill experienced my ‘black dog’ days.

Recent times

The prolonged pandemic has been a severe test for even the most optimistic believer. Being a pensioned retiree, still able to take walks for exercise most days, married for six decades to a culinary genius, with a furloughed son-in-law able to shop for us and taxi us when necessary, life had seemed to continue its reasonably ‘normal’ course. But our local daughter who, as a teaching assistant, has had constant employment educating young children of ‘key workers’, admitted to us when regular school life returned, that she’d been wearing a happy mask to hide her deepest emotions. But when she started to read a book of my poems that her husband had recently published, she decided to write down her real feeling as her first ever attempt at verse. Her colleagues told her that she’d expressed in her poem how they too had been feeling.

My Painted Smile

I have a painted smile
That I wear when I feel scared
Or low, or overwhelmed
So that folk are unaware.

I wear my painted smile
Though it doesn’t really fit
It’s uncomfortable and fake
And it slips a little bit.

I know it doesn’t belong
Because I hate the way it feels
It doesn’t match my insides
And I know it isn’t real.

My real smile fits me perfectly
It comes from way inside
And makes me shine, I wear it well
And show it off with pride.

My real smile never droops or fades
It doesn’t wear with age
It’s full of love and joy and hope
A rainbow in the beige.

My real smile is infectious
A thing I share with joy
With everyone who comes my way
Man, lady, girl or boy.

I wish my real smile stayed each day
I wish it never went
But at times life throws a curveball
And it leaves me feeling spent.

I should then hold my hand up
And say “Today is not okay”
But then my painted smile creeps on
And my fake role I will play.

Today my fake smile failed me
It slipped right from my face
I tried to hold it on again
But tears flowed down its place.

And once the wall had tumbled
The floodgates didn’t stop
I tried to hold them in but
The painted face had dropped.

Embarrassment then followed
As friends all stopped and stared
As they realised I wasn’t okay
Their faces showed their care.

They rushed to reassure me
Love and support to share
Showered me with kindness
As I sobbed out my despair.

My fears are real and painful
But my painted face has gone
And I’ll ride this storm until
My real smile’s back where it belongs.

A psalmist’s poem of his lows and highs

I commend the Old Testament psalmists for divulging their roller-coaster emotions during times of trial. Their cup did not run over all the time. Before David mentioned his overflowing vessel, he had sketched the wide range of his circumstances. Because ‘the Lord is my shepherd, I have all that I need’, such as ‘green meadows’’, ‘peaceful streams’ and ‘renew[ed] … strength’, guidance, ‘a prepare[d] feast’ and ‘anointing with oil’; but he was also threatened by ‘enemies’ and ‘the darkest valley’ (New Living Translation).

And the preceding psalm has unmistakable references to our Saviour’s cross and resurrection. In fact, Psalm 22 begins with the very question Jesus cried out to God at Calvary:

‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why are you so far away when I groan for help?’
(Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34)

It ends, according to The Passion Translation, with the phrase that was his final utterance of triumph: ‘It is finished’ (Psalm 22:31 TPT). And note the psalmist’s double references to ‘a herd of … fierce bulls’, ‘lions [with] open jaws’ and ‘a pack of dogs’ describing demonic attacks (see verses 12-13 and 16; 20-21 NLT).

I invite you to meditate on each half of this very meaningful song – verses 1-21 and verses 2-31. This note in TPT [with my clues in square brackets] will help you to determine your perspective:

‘Between verse 21 and verse 22 the glorious resurrection of Jesus takes place. The music is elevated to a higher key as victory is sounded forth. ‘My people gather’ [verse 23 TPT] is a reference to the church that was birthed through his resurrection glory. See also verse 25 [‘From you (= God) comes my praise in the great congregation’ English Standard Version] – quoted in Hebrews 2:12, directly attributed to Jesus: ‘in the midst of the congregation [‘church, KJV, as in Matthew 18:20, Greek ekklesia, Septuagint Version of the Old Testament] I will sing your praise’ [ESV].


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