Ringing The Joy Bells

   Each of us has a large capacity for enjoyment. Some are naturally more exuberant than others. Some are light-hearted and cheerful. Others are sober and thoughtful. Some are emotional. Some are unemotional. Some are inclined to look on the bright side of things; others upon the dark side. But each of us has within joy bells which may be made to peal out the glad tidings of a joyful heart.

  Sometimes these joy bells ring spontaneously, but very often if they ring we must ring them. We must do something to cause them to ring. Every life may hear their happy echoes, every life may be joyous. If our life does not hold a considerable content of joy it is because we permit it to become abnormal. We permit things to silence the joy bells and we permit them to hang silent in the belfries of our souls.

  Like all our other capacities our capacity for joy and gladness may be developed and increased. It is important to have the will to be joyful. "I mean to be happy" should be the motto of each of us. There need be nothing selfish in such an attitude. It is perfectly right and in complete harmony with God's will that we hold such an attitude and that we use our best endeavors to make it a reality in our lives.

  The Christian religion is not a long-faced, gloomy thing. It is the greatest source of true happiness. We should set ourselves the task of developing our capacity to be happy. We should not be like a woman who once lived neighbor to my grandfather. She constantly wore a sunbonnet that extended some inches before her face. Asked why she did it she said she wore it lest she should see something to make her laugh. A part of her idea of being a Christian was refraining from laughter. Others, while not so extreme, think it a mark of spirituality to be grave and dignified and to shut out of life the things that would make it bright, cheerful, and sappy.

  Long ago I determined to be happy. I determined to be happy no matter what happened and no matter what condition I might be in nor what my circumstances might be. For twenty-one years I have kept my bed a constant sufferer, but I am happy. I am happy every day. I will not be any other way. I have had my troubles, many of them. I shall probably have more. I have learned that troubles do not make unhappiness. It is only a wrong attitude toward trouble that does 80. I hope the reader will pardon my referring to my own experience, but I have passed through so many things and so much suffering and trouble and yet have learned to be happy in spite of it that I know others can do the same if they will. Many a time I have had to pull hard on the rope of the joy bells to get them to ring. I have kept on pulling until they pealed out their joyous tones. Dear reader, you can do the same no matter what the situation or surroundings, if you will go about it in the right way.

  Many people have unfavorable tendencies. They seem naturally disposed to be easily discouraged or gloomy, looking on the dark side. They are timid, sensitive, or unsociable. These unfavorable natural tendencies should not be permitted to have sway in the life. We should set ourselves resolutely to overcome such tendencies. If we are inclined to become easily discouraged we should cultivate hope. We should ask ourselves, "What would be the hopeful attitude with regard to this?" Having determined what it would be we should adopt it and hold it no matter what the temptation is to do otherwise.

  If we are inclined to be gloomy and to look on the dark side of things let us compel ourselves to look on the bright side. Perhaps we may feel there is no bright side, but there is always a bright side to everything. If there is no naturally bright side let us turn it up toward God and let the sunshine of his love fall upon it. That will brighten any circumstance. If we are inclined to be timid let us compel ourselves to do the thing we ought to do or want to do. Let us not surrender to our timidity. We can break through it and overcome it and master it. If we give way to it its hold upon us becomes firmer and firmer. If we do what we desire to do in spite of it, it will cease to hinder us.

  If we are inclined to be unsociable we should compel ourselves to act in a sociable way whether we feel like it or not. We should practice being friendly toward others. We should meet them half way or beyond. If we act this out it will soon become natural to us and bring us much satisfaction.

   I have spoken of the rope of the joy bells. Most bells do not ring of themselves. We must ring them. So we must ring the joy bells. Sometimes our joy bells seem like the old bell on a farm where I once was. It stood on a tall pole. I wondered why it was not rung to call the workers in from the field at noon. When I came to the house I discovered there was no rope attached to the bell.

  In some cases the joy bells are like a bell on another farm where I lived. It did not hang in the proper position because it was not properly balanced. So when the wind would blow the bell would ring night or day. Many a time I was awakened in the night by its ringing. Some joy bells likewise ring only as chance occurrences. They ring only under favorable conditions, as a result of favorable circumstances. They are not controlled. We need to attach a rope of faith to our joy bells and through the exercise of this faith we can cause them to ring. We can have an inner source of joy and peace that is not disturbed by the storms of life, that does not depend upon circumstances, but has its root and fountain deep in the heart. We can be so hid away with Christ in God that the storms will pass us by.

  A number of years ago during the test of a submarine it stayed submerged for many hours. When it had returned to the harbor a man said to the commander, "Well, how did the storm affect you last night?" The commander looked at him in surprise and said, "Storm! We knew nothing of any storm!" They had been down far enough below the surface not to feel any effect of the storm. We can sink down into God from life's storms so they need not keep the joy bells of our soul from ringing. We can be joyful even in the midst of trouble.

  A friend once told me of his experience in an earthquake in a certain city. He said when the buildings swayed and trembled all the bells of the city began ringing. In life's earthquakes we may so trust God that our joy bells will ring.

  God gives to us the gift of rejoicing. Jesus said he gave us his peace, "That your joy may be full." Paul rejoiced in the midst of his tribulations, "We are exceeding joyful in all our tribulations." And he exhorted the Thessalonians to "rejoice evermore." If we cannot rejoice in the things of the present, in the realization of our hopes, we can at least rejoice in hope of better things to come. Rejoicing in past victories and in past blessings will often bring joy in spite of present trouble.

  There may be periods in life that are dark. Failure may cast its shadows upon us. Discouragements may press us. If we look only at the present we shall have a hard time to make the joy bells ring. At such times we should look at our lives as a whole, not at these temporary incidents. "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." There is a morning which shall dawn upon our darkest night. If we cannot rejoice in ourselves in the present we can rejoice in God. We can rejoice in the good things of the past and in the good things that lie before us in the future.

  The truly and permanently happy people are those who have a source of happiness too deep, or too high, to be seriously disturbed by ordinary troubles. There spiritual balance which we can attain that gives us stability and makes us like the anchored buoy, rather than like the drifting object which is ever tossed about the waves of circumstances. Faith is the anchor of the soul. In fact faith is the greatest element in the life of happiness and success. Those who have this inner source of happiness do not depend upon daily events to make them happy. They depend upon what they are, upon their relations with God—those permanent characteristics of life that settle them, root and ground them in Christ and in the Christian life. The waves of trouble may pass over them but they are not swept from their place.

  Jesus taught us a valuable lesson when he said, "I have meat that ye know not of." We may know what this means from personal experience. We may be so submitted to God, so obedient to him, and so trust in him that the joy bells may be kept ringing in our lives and our souls be rejoicing evermore until we reach that land of endless day where trouble and sorrow, discouragements and suffering, never come. Learn, dear reader, the blessed lesson how to ring your joy bells and how to prevent them from being muffled by doubts and fears.


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