Excitement is something that easily leaks out of us. This is particularly true when it bubbles deep within due to heavenly blessings. We can’t help but address “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:19-20).
There is also a deeper joy that surfaces to song, particularly at the strangest of times. The scattered believers to which James wrote were being persecuted for the sake of Christ. And despite their affliction, some were full of cheer.
Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.James 5:13
James brings his epistle to a close with a kind of benediction. After urging his readers to “count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds” (Ja. 1:2), he gives them a final point of application—pray. He guides us into it by asking three questions followed by three answers. They work in parallel to encourage the reader to take action and turn to God.
This is the second of the three questions. First, he wrote, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.” It was a call to anyone who had been afflicted by various kinds of troubles resulting in weariness and weakness of strength. He told them to turn to God and cast their burdens upon Him, the giver of strength.
Are You Cheerful?
At first glance, it might seem absurd that James would call for anyone among them that might be cheerful. He mentioned, just a few verses prior, that they were being “condemned and murdered” by their countrymen (Ja. 5:6). He mentioned them being dragged into court to be taken advantage of (Ja. 2:6) and robbed for the little that they had (Ja. 5:4). He instructed them to have divine patience and to “establish your heart” in Christ until He returns to deliver them (Ja. 5:8). Life was terrible and tragic at times. It seems strange that anyone might be cheerful at all.
The word “cheerful” means “in good spirits” or to have a good temperament. It describes an inward kind of blessedness and wellness of the soul. It is a joy that can exist regardless of any external kind of pain or trouble. One who is cheerful can, at the same time, be physically burdened. As a parallel to “suffering,” which is an inward weariness due to outward affliction, “cheerful” speaks of inward gladness despite outward affliction.
You Should Praise.
He says to the cheerful, those who have a happy attitude, to turn to God just the same. But, instead of turning to God for strength, they must turn to God for joy, the giver of cheer and inner contentment. “Let him sing praise” (Ja. 5:13). In the original language this is one word which is commonly translated as “psalm.” James says to psalm, sing spiritual songs, to God in thanksgiving. And, since it is a command in the present tense, it can be understood as: “You should keep praising God.”
This is what Paul and Silas did in Acts 16. When the locals didn’t appreciate their gospel preaching, they were beaten and imprisoned. But, “about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25). They were physically afflicted and disposed to be internally troubled. But instead, they were cheerful and sang praises to God.
In the late 1800’s, a man named Horatio Gates Spafford lost his son to scarlet fever. Only two years later, he lost his four daughters in a tragic boat accident over the Atlantic. Sailing across those tragic waters to reunite with his wife, he wrote one of our most cherished hymns entitled, “It is Well with My Soul.” Here are some of the lyrics:
When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate
And has shed His own blood for my soul
My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part, but the whole
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend
Even so, it is well with my soul!
Is it well with your soul? Are you cheerful despite the circumstances around you? Then, James says to sing to the Lord of joy a song of thanksgiving and praise. He will bless you with more as the inexhaustible provider of grace.