All the days of the oppressed are wretched,
but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.
It seems here that the proverb is not contrasting those who are afflicted and those who have good things happening to them; rather, it is between those who live feeling afflicted and those who live counting their blessings. Sometimes the deeper philosophy lies in what seems fanciful.
Every life has its share of affliction and blessings. The question for us is which of the two we will focus on. Though some people do live under worse afflictions than others, I’ve never been able to detect a pattern among people in general that connects the amount of suffering with a person’s outlook on life. I’ve seen people mortally ill in great pain who are cheerful and thankful to God; and I’ve seen people in good health with much going for them and yet are continually downcast.
For most of these people, their unhappiness and happiness are choices they have made. For some, depression has become an affliction itself, unexplainable even to them. Even so, the decision to deal with depression becomes a choice to make. One must choose to get the help needed. You may not be able to choose what feelings you have, but you can choose what feelings you should have and take steps toward achieving them.
The Bible says “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Whatever our prayer, start with thanksgiving. That alone will help orient our thoughts and feelings, as we recall before God his goodness to us. If we are in Christ, we should daily give thanks for our salvation, remembering this gift that is above all afflictions we might endure in this life. Thus Paul, who could claim the prize of most afflicted, could write, “this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
2 Corinthians 3-4
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
4 Such confidence we have through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
The Greater Glory of the New Covenant
7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Present Weakness and Resurrection Life
4 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[b] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”[c] Since we have that same spirit of[d] faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.