Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith;
or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching;
he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:6-8)
Yes, the gifts differ. Some of us teach, some of us administrate (lead, by taking care of details), some of us finance the work, some of us speak a "now" word from the Lord.
But the cheerfulness part isn't a gift - the cheerfulness part is a choice.
Here's what I've learned for sure: if you are the sort of person who can lift the atmosphere in a room, who can cheer others up and put a smile on their face, everyone who is of a negative bent unconsciously believes you are operating in some special magic they do not possess.
They believe this special "magic" you operate in must be inexhaustible...because they think it is your "gift". No one ever stops to think that you could actually be used (and used up) by their perpetual need for your sense of humor and sunny outlook. After all, gifts come pretty naturally.
That is like saying honesty is a gift. No. Honesty is a choice. It is a quality of character.
Our cheerful ones are at risk, friends. Not only do others believe the cheerful woman's good humor is her "gift", others also secretly sniff condescendingly at her joy. It is a strange, convoluted tension between two extremes - negative people will privately scoff at the cheerful ones, while at the same time feeling jealous of them, while at the same time using them like a drug.
Now. In a departure from the usual, I am going to get down and dirty.
When you get all the way down to the heart of the issue, there is an unwillingness on the part of the woman who wallows in her "stuff" - an unwillingness to make the same hard choices the joyous ones have made. By default, this is a choice no different than choosing to tell a lie, or choosing to overeat, or choosing to gossip. The woman swallowed up by her circumstances chooses not to be cheerful. The negative woman chooses to resort to her quiet drama as a means to get her needs met...and wonders why she must fake her joy, why she can't shake her despondency, or can't get out of bed.
So what does she do? She calls a Joyous One (or texts her). Every time. In fact, the Joyous One might even be on speed dial. Or live nearby. The Joyous One is asked to come over, to give her a hug, to pray for her, even to help her do life...the Joyous One is expected to listen to the latest rendition of her problems (as though the Joyous One has none of her own) and never a thought is given to the fact that a few months or years of this will put the joyous ones at risk.
Do not ask me how I know, because I just might tell you.
I read a prayer of St. Augustine the other day, and one line grabbed me in a headlock, demanding my thoughtful consideration:
"Tend your sick ones, O Lord Christ,
Rest your weary ones,
Bless your dying ones,
Soothe your suffering ones,
Pity your afflicted ones,
Shield your joyous ones,
And all for your love's sake. Amen."
I get the prayers for the sick, weary, dying, suffering and afflicted...but the joyous?
You had better believe it. They need divine protection. They can have the very life drained out of them, and then the perpetually needy will leave them in search of fresh cheery-blood.
The way I see it, this problem is solved if we each one take responsibility for our own happiness, seek the Lord diligently, and seek to increase the joy of others instead of ourselves, at all times, in all ways, at all costs. The problem is solved if we each one access the Great Grace of God. (But first you have to have a revelation of it...and that is a different post altogether.) These things are part-and-parcel of life in the body of Christ, and is part of the idea behind the words of Paul in Galatians 6, "For each one shall bear his own load."
Rejoice evermore, church.
Rejoice evermore. REJOICE evermore. Rejoice EVERMORE.
And in the meantime, we say "Yes, Lord...shield your joyous ones..."