“Smile and the world smiles with you. Frown and you frown alone.” In my grumpy teen years, my dad used to unctuously quote this old proverb to me, annoying me greatly. I think that might have been his intention.
Is there actually truth in the saying? When you smile, does the world actually smile with you? Dale Carnegie instructed his students to go out and smile at people to see what sort of results they got. His idea was that if you became known as the sort of person who was constantly smiling and happy, then you’d be the sort of person who could succeed in business and in life.
As I walk through my life, I consider smiling. Does the world smile with me when I smile? Not necessarily. They might think me loony!
My mother’s saying along these lines was “It takes more muscles to frown than to smile.” So what? I don’t find myself tired after frowning. Am I desperately attempting to conserve energy? Plus, it turns out that this saying isn’t true. Imagine that.
I bring all this up today because of the second verb in the second half of Psalm 118:24.
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Look up the Hebrew verb that is translated, pretty steadily, as “be glad,” and you’ll find that it means something slightly surprising: “rejoice.” Does that mean that the verse enjoins us to “rejoice and rejoice”? Sort of, but not exactly.
Read a bit more in the Hebrew dictionary and you’ll find this. “The primary idea appears to be that of a joyful and cheerful countenance.” So basically it could say “let us rejoice and smile.”
We’ve all seen people who go around with a completely unnatural and inappropriate grin on their faces. The wrong smile can make a person look fairly strange. Smile for the wrong reasons and you’ll seem evil. Smile for no reason and people will take you for crazy or dishonest. The politician who can go around for weeks and months on end, smiling at a bunch of complete strangers without looking unnatural, can probably achieve something.
Of course this Psalm does not call on us to smile for no reason and it does not suggest we smile for a bad reason. The first half of the verse has set up the reason for our rejoicing and our happy expression.
How can I not be cheerful, how can I not smile when I am inhabiting the day that the Lord has made? I ask that rhetorically, because, perhaps like you, I am entirely capable of wearing that frown as my habitual expression. I suppose that’s why my parents shared their little sayings with me.
So why, if I’m living in the eternal day that the Lord made, do I not walk around smiling? The reason, of course, is that, living in the flesh, I find it far too easy to allow that knowledge of God’s control to fade out of my mind. That’s why the Psalmist brought it to his own and to our mind.
This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Doesn’t that make you smile?