“Turn that frown upside down,” my mother said to me during my childhood if I was pouting and unhappy about things not going my way. Before my first day of high school she told me, “Smile and say ‘hi’ to people when you pass them in the halls.”
WISE COUNSEL OR NONSENSE
My mother was a stay at home housewife whom I respected. It wasn’t always easy to adjust my frown into a smile, but I discovered when I did, it made a difference. Her point wasn’t just to change my facial expression. It was that I make the choice to look at what I had rather than what I didn’t have; what was going well in my life instead of what wasn’t going my way. Her counsel for sharing a smile with others at school also proved to be wise. I discovered that if I smiled at people and said hi, they returned the smile. Years later, I discovered that my mother’s counsel aligned with God’s counsel. Just as my mother noticed my countenance and advised me to do something about it, God notices our countenance. In Genesis 4:6-7, God said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
God, the mighty counselor, our creator who wired us, not only sees our countenance but is concerned for us. If our countenance has fallen because we’re angry, He counsels us to do well. In other words, rather than act out in anger, control ourselves and do the next right thing. In other words, we can’t control other people. We are responsible for ourselves and doing what is right in sight.
Genesis 4:1-7 isn’t the only place where countenance is mentioned. Exodus 34:29-35 connects Moses’s glowing countenance to him being in God’s presence. “It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai…that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him.” (vs 29) And, in Exodus 34:34-45, “But whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with Him,…the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone.”
Psalm 43:5 states, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.” Who can help our countenance? God. How? By our choosing to turn from despair to hoping in Him. By our choosing to walk in the light of God’s countenance. Psalm 89:15
Second Corinthians 3:18, which is a theme of my book, “Pray with Purpose, Live with Passion,” and also of the P.R.A.Y. with Passion Conference that Hill Country Ministries has to taken across the United States, focuses on our choice to look up at God rather than only look around at the world situation or look down in despair. “But we all, …beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” In other words, believers are not Polly Anna or fake about difficulties we face, about our struggles against depression, illness, family problems, or relational issues. Rather, we face the same thing unbelievers face, but not without hope. In the midst of struggles we choose to turn our faces to God who is sufficient to meet our every need. When we do, we walk in the light of His countenance as people of hope.
WORLD SMILE DAY
Today is World Smile Day, begun by commercial artist Harvey Ball, who created the well known yellow smiley image. He thought that we should devote one day each year to smiles and kind acts throughout the world. “The smiley face knows no politics, no geography and no religion. Harvey’s idea was that for at least one day each year, neither should we. He declared that the first Friday in October each year would henceforth be World Smile Day® with the motto, ‘Do an act of kindness. Help one person smile’!” (https://www.worldsmileday.com)
I’m not confident that World Smile Day is going to produce smiling politicians or people around the world. I am confident that Christ followers have a reason to smile. Will we smile today in God’s presence as we thank Him for His gifts of mercy, salvation, and heaven? Will we share that hope and smile with someone else today? I think it just might make our Heavenly Father smile to see that expression of our trust in Him.
Heavenly Father, forgive us when we go about with a scowl on our face as those who have no hope. Thank You that as we look at You and Your greatness and provisions that it lifts up our countenances. Help us walk today and everyday with the light of Your countenance on our face because we have spent time in Your presence. In Jesus’s name, amen.