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At the age of 87, brother J. A. McNutt made the observation that “most folks are about as happy, or as miserable, as they plan to be.” Call it home-spun humor if you like, but it is more than that. It is homespun wisdom, achieved by a life of dedication to studying the word of the Lord, to practicing it and to teaching it (Ezra 7:10).

We are what we make of ourselves, which is not to dismiss the Lord’s control and influence. We make the conscious decision to be who we are. That’s a truth that Solomon stressed several times.

“For as he thinks within himself, so he is…” (Prov. 23:7). In context, Solomon spoke of a selfish man who makes the appropriate expressions of welcome and caring, but inwardly resents that person that accepted his disingenuous offers. However, what is true of the selfish man is true of every man in one regard – we are who we are on the inside. Genetics may determine height, skin tone, hair color and a thousand other things about us, but character is not genetic. Neither is it accidental. Character is what we make of ourselves. Environment is a factor, but it is not the determining factor.

“A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, But when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken” (Prov. 15:13). Solomon was not simply making observations, nor was he intimating that some are predisposed to happiness and others to bitterness. His proverb was a true statement about life that was given to young people to help them make a conscious decision to develop a godly character. If his observation was nothing more than a commentary on “some people are one way and some are another way” he would have likely ended with a verse or two from Doris Day’s big hit, Que Sera, Sera.

“A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones” (Prov. 17:22). Staggering amounts of money, much of it in the form of grants (i.e., your tax dollars) have been poured into research that concludes a happy person enjoys better physical and emotional health, while a bitter person suffers more ailments and emotional stress. Your marginal notes for this verse will show that “good medicine” is literally, “causes good healing.” Again, the value of this proverb is not that it is a casual observation but that, because this is true, we need to develop a heart of joy. No one wants to be that proverbial “bitter old man/woman,” and it is understood that we have opportunity to avoid it.

But how does a person develop such a heart? Solomon also wrote, “Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward. Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God. For he will not often consider the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart.” (Eccl. 5:18-20). It is as simple as taking care of yourself and committing yourself to WORK rather than leisure. The passage assumes a desire to fear and serve God, but it counsels us to be industrious and promises a peace in old age.

It is true, “most folks are about as happy, or as miserable as they plan to be.” It is also true that everyone around us knows which we planned for. “As in water face reflects face, So the heart of man reflects man” (Prov. 27:19).

Keep studying! DC Brown ©2013