I tend to joke around a lot. It just kinda comes naturally to me to want to make people laugh, poke a little fun, and make people feel comfortable enough to be themselves.
When I happened upon Christianity in my late teens, especially in the conservative world I found myself, I went internal for a while. I got serious. My countenance changed. It was also happening in my college years when we all start to get more weighed down with major life decisions.
And then I remember reading through Proverbs one day as I sat in my apartment. My experience with Proverbs was and is that I just keep reading through the one-liners until one hits me that seems to be relevant to the moment, and I reflect on it.
And this one, that probably many of you know, found me:
Proverbs 17:22 A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.
At the time, I think it served as a justification for the resurgence of my proclivity for all things silly. The pranks made a come back, I started trying to host more cut-loose parties at my place and overall I just relaxed a little.
Now, I think we can all conclude that this might not be the strongest illustration of what the proverb writer had in mind, but as is always the case with well-meaning youth, I was doing my best.
As I’ve grown older, got married, had three children, worked a full-time job to provide for that family, and taken on responsibilities in ministry, I have revisited this proverb.
Responsibility can weigh on a person. Millennials have actually made a verb for the struggles of transitioning into adult responsibilities. It’s called ‘adulting.' And then beyond that, the longer you live, the more likely you are to encounter difficult circumstances. That’s just the course of life for most of us.
And so when someone possesses a cheerful heart, its connection to medicine is more than a metaphor. It’s a reality. In the days of antidepressants and other coping mechanisms, we’ve all felt the actual medicine a cheerful person can be in our life.
I have a friend named Mitchell Buchanan who displays the kind of contagious cheer that people are attracted to. He quickly and naturally befriends people, he loves to learn people’s stories and he loves a good time.
I’ve also known Mitch for over a decade. And I watched this gift in him mature. I’ve watched him grow this gift into a great sense for hospitality for those around him. I’ve watched him accommodate the needs of those working for him when he is leading a work shift so that they can feel comfortable. And I’ve watched him make these transitions with a lot of intention.
As I asked people about who serves as this sort of medicine in their life, I got lots of varying answers. Co-workers, spouses, friends, children - all serve as medicine for those in their midst. In fact, it’s a gift we can all be to one another at different seasons in life. It’s not up to just the Mitchells of the world, it’s up to all of us to decide to serve others in this way when we all inevitably experience those downcast moments.