THE SECRET OF A LIGHT HEART
I have no faith whatever in any quack remedies for so curing the ills of life that one may be permitted to live and work, fight life’s battles, and finally meet the great enemy with a cheerful face and a light heart. But there are specific great causes that always produce certain results. It is well for us to be thoroughly entrenched in the knowledge that may help us to be thus equipped for the duties of life, for next to having a pure heart, there is nothing that can come to us in this world so good as a heart that is light and glad, that goes bounding along the way, happy to be alive and busy about its work.
The world is full of heavy-hearted people. We meet men and women every day, and when we look into their eyes, we know their hearts are like lead. Sometimes, they are rich people who have in abundance the things that men most envy, but neither a soft-cushioned carriage with thoroughbred horses nor a richly-caparisoned yacht with fast-speeding sails can outfly the enemies of gladness that load down the human heart with burdens that the world has no power to take away.
No message on this subject is valuable unless it applies to us all alike, rich or poor. It must be universal and within the reach of everyone to be of any great comfort. But some things can always be depended upon to lighten the heart of its load.
The first secret of a light heart is friendship. We can never be entirely in despair so long as we are conscious that we have good, strong, noble friends whose hearts are true to us. It is a great mistake to live in this world without cultivating friends. I do not mean doing it in any commercial way so that they may stand by you when you need them. Still, I mean that our hearts should come into sympathetic touch with good people so that we shall draw daily gladness and sunshine from the knowledge of their sympathy and appreciation. We must remember that the basis, or rather the nucleus, around which all our great friendships must gather is our friendship with Jesus. Jesus told his disciples and through them to us: “I have called you friends.” If we live in a relationship or friendship with Jesus, we constantly have one great window of light into our hearts.
Another secret of a light heart closely akin to friendship, and indeed, only another phase of it, is in the consciousness that some people who know you well think well of you and regard your work with kindness. The action of such a consciousness is swift. Who of us has not risen in the morning from an almost sleepless night, gone through breakfast without enthusiasm or appetite, and thought of the day’s work to come with fear and trembling, but the postman brought with him a remedy all but miraculous in its effect? It was in the shape of a letter full of thanksgiving and appreciation and breathing a kind regard. How quickly it acted on the tired nerves! The headache was swept away at once; all the languidness was gone. Life was worth living; your work was not a failure after all. Somebody cared and admired you, and so you went to your work with a glad heart and faced the day with music in your soul.
Now, it is always possible for us to have that kind of help to give us good cheer at the beginning of the day. If we live honestly toward God, living up to our light, and trying to please God in everything, we shall undoubtedly have the consciousness that God, who knows us better than anyone else, is pleased with us. He knows that our work is worthwhile; he knows us clearly to the core, and he smiles. Is it not true that much of the unrest and anxiety of the soul we suffer comes from the feeling that, however much other people may be pleased with us, God is not satisfied? There is only one way to lighten your heart of that feeling: to “make it up” with God. I have known friends to be out because one had wronged the other, and all joy and peace were gone, faces lowering, and hearts heavy. Then I had seen them afterward when frank apology and confession had been made, the wrong-doer had been forgiven, and faces were bright and shining; hearts were light as a bird’s wing. We have wronged God, and our hearts are heavy. The way to get them light and happy is to confess our sins and receive forgiveness.
Another secret of a light heart is a consciousness that we are helpful. I have always noticed that the person in a family is more likely to be waited on and petted and spoiled by all the others who are heavy-hearted than the one who carries most of the family burdens. Selfishness never has any wings. Selfishness is like heavy dough that will not rise but sinks together, soggy and sour. You might as well fill a ball with lead to make it bounce as to fill your heart and life with selfishness to make it cheerful and happy. Jesus was happy, though he saw the cross before him because he saw how much he would help and bless the world., So, not one of us will ever see a day so dark or will ever know a time when our hearts will be so depressed, but the consciousness that we are helping somebody and that our work is making it brighter and happier for another will bring a ray of cheerful sunshine home to us and make life bearable.
Finally, a specific secret for a light heart lies in the assurance that this is God’s world and not the devil’s and that though we cannot see how it may be coming out for the best, God does see. Though we do not behold it, there is a bright side to any present difficulty, and ere long, the bright side will turn itself toward us, and God will make us know that all things are working together for our good.
Count them over again for your soul’s comfort, these secrets of a light heart: Friendship, appreciation, consciousness of being helpful, and God’s guidance. Now, any one of these could keep us from despair, but every one of us may have them all. You may have them just as indeed in the narrow path of the wage-earner as if your income were counted by millions. You may have them in the kitchen or the foundry as certainly as in the parlor or the counting room. They are within your reach because you are men and women, children of God, and they are doors that God sets before you and that no man or woman other than yourself can shut.
Banks, Louis Albert. Unused Rainbows: Prayer Meeting Talks. Fleming H Revell, 1901.
2023 Louis Banks and Nathan Zipfel, revised and updated.