Proverbs 15:15 (ESV)

15 All the days of the afflicted are evil, but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast.

When Pharaoh asked Jacob how old he was, Jacob answered, “The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers” (Genesis 47:9). Although Jacob’s true faith can be seen in this answer (Hebrews 11:9–10, Hebrews 11:13–16), and although Jacob’s life was indeed full of difficulties, one may ask, Were all of his years only difficult? After all, he got to see his long-lost son as the under-king of Egypt, after which he lived for seventeen more years and saw his offspring increase. Yet, in the eyes of this oppressed man, all of his days were difficult.

Paul, on the other hand, writes at the end of his life (while in prison!), “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me” (2 Timothy 4:6–8). Although he has experienced many difficulties himself (2 Corinthians 6:4–10), he writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4).

Of course, our personalities play a role in the way that we look at our lives. But there is also the question of our attitude to life. Oppressed feelings sometimes arise from bitterness, doubt, and discontent. As Christians, we are able to change this attitude by faith. A measure of cheerfulness can be learned. Think about and memorize encouraging words from Scripture, and sing the Psalms (as Paul and Silas did even while imprisoned and in pain, Acts 16:25). Follow the advice that is so often given in Ecclesiastes: enjoy the small things in life, including eating and drinking. Rather than wallowing in self-pity, follow Paul’s example and “press on toward the goal to win the prize” (Philippians 3:14). In these ways, life can become a “continual feast,” as our proverb says.