“These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NKJV)
“They are my walking lawn ornaments!” That’s how the farm owner affectionately refers to her miniature donkeys, Sagebrush and Tumbleweed. I, too, have become quite fond of them. They are about hip-high (waist-high if you measure according to their ears), awkward looking creatures. Delicate legs and dainty hoofs seem inadequate to support their protruding barrel-like stomach and shoebox shaped head. Their coat, rough and scruffy, is adorned by a sparse unruly mane. And their tail, well, let’s just say it looks like a worn-out straw broom. That said their appearance is overshadowed by a distinct personality. Humans, according to them, have been put on earth to brush, stroke, scratch, rub and feed them. If this is not done to their satisfaction, irritatingly loud and frequent brays alert you to their disapproval. But somehow this audacity, coming from such a comical and vocal animal, has an endearing quality—I cannot help but smile, be cheered up in their company! Quite an accomplishment for lawn ornaments!
Oddly enough, the cheerful encounters I have with these donkeys serve to remind me of a glad and joyous expression used by Jesus: “Be of Good Cheer.” Through these words Jesus challenges us to choose to live life with a cheerful outlook. This is not a choice made out of naivety, for these words were spoken to battered and broken people. A quick survey of several key verses (Matt. 14:27, John 16:33, Acts 27:22-25) indicate that Jesus knew that we will all have our share of troubles. In fact, each verse is associated with some form of danger or difficulty. But each verse also reveals one can have good cheer because Jesus is with us—indeed, has already overcome—the trial that has entangled us. For “Be of Good Cheer” is utterly impossible for us to do on our own.
“Be of good cheer” then, is not a slogan said by a silly soul who does not take his or her walk with Christ seriously, but rather by a person who understands Christ is actively at work in them. One who knows cheerfulness is not a cover-up for tragedy, but a triumph over trouble. It is cheerful confidence in Christ that there are no crises, for he knows the future and smiles gently at the calamity we find so threatening. Because Jesus is present, life can be greeted with buoyant good cheer in spite of sufferings.
“Be of Good Cheer” is something I need to intentionally practice, whether the times are tough or quite ordinary. Summer and holidays naturally provide opportunities for good cheer. I invite you to use this season to develop a habit of cheerfulness.
PS. Need help getting started? Scratch a donkey! Sagebrush and Tumbleweed certainly inspire me.
Prayer: Father, help us to deliberately and in calm confidence exhibit genuine “good cheer” in all circumstances of our lives. Remind us of your constant presence at work behind the scenes. Guide us and lead us out in joy. Amen.
Summer Reading Suggestions: What Makes Life Worth Living or if you are camping, Sky Edge: Mountain Top Meditations, both by Philip Keller.
Contributed by Daryl Ginter