The Prodigal Son’s Brother’s Cheerfulness

I sometimes wonder why good things happen to bad people and good people—well, seems to be always unlucky. For someone who is studying law, that could be considered as injustice. It’s always hard seeing other people succeeding when they cheated and you did all your best virtuously but still nothing happened. It seemed that for a moment, God turned deaf ear to you.

I found it pretty strange that when I was a child, I easily understood the story of “The Prodigal Son”. My pure and uncorrupted mind understood love and forgiveness then. I initially did not understand why the first brother was not happy at all with his younger brother’s return. I mean, I have a sister and a brother which are both younger than me. We all fought with each other fiercely but after a while, we forgive each other without saying sorry and continue playing after as if nothing happened. Probably that’s because that how much we really love each other. But as I grow older in the real world, I’ve realized that I became one of the embodiments of the older brother. I tried hard being good almost all the time which was extremely difficult but some people seemed to be more rewarded than me.  And then this line from the bible already made sense to me:

But he answered his father, “Behold, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed a commandment of yours, but you never gave me a goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this, your son, came, who has devoured your living with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.

– Luke 15:29-30

Yes, God…why is that so? And now, why does feeling happy for another person’s success is not as easy as it was? I breathed deeply and said to myself. “I’m really sorry for questioning You. How dare me question you when you’re God.”

And then it dawned to me—the older brother was also faulted. I am faulted.

Yesterday, in my Legal Profession class, my professor, Atty. Jeremy Gatdula, who was one of the most intelligent people that I know, asked the class: “Do you know what one word character you must possess in order for you to be called a true Christian?”

Majority of my classmates were Christians save for two or three followers of Islam at the back. We gave him answer such as “Loving”, “Charitable”, and “Prayerful” among others. He said that we were close to that. When nobody gave him the correct answer, he said:

“Cheerful.”

I was like—“What?” All these years, I thought that becoming a true Christian means to suffer a lot in this world and just have a deep faith in Him. After all, there would be heaven after this. As proof, Isaiah 50:6-7 says:

“I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.”

But was I happy doing it all these years? Frankly, no.

I am the type of person who does not really fight back.  I seem to be loud and opinionated but I’m not a fighter at all. No wonder I could easily be targeted by bullies since I was a young girl. As my friend, Angela, tells me in Facebook when I asked her to give me a sort of testimonial like in good old Friendster, a line there says: “The truth is, I would never pegged her to become a lawyer. She is such a softie.” In addition to that, I’m such a worrier.  A very big one.

Am I really a good Christian? Or was I just lying on that fact to myself for several years?

Then I was awakened by the fact that I was lying to myself—or at least partially. There is no doubt that I have faith in God. But it was bleak, weak and it easily crack.  An unanswered prayer sometimes makes me whine like a little girl whose parents refused to buy her a doll from the toy store. But that is not maturity. That is not really faith. Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.  I realized that I forgot to trust God a lot in my journey that’s why I am feeling miserable at times.

Why are true believers of Christianity cheerful? Actually, the first persons who noticed the cheerfulness of Christians are the Romans. I really revere the early Christian saints and followers. They know that they are going to be persecuted any time but still, they followed God. Saint Peter even slept well the night before he was crucified upside down.

Matthew 6:26 says:

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

This implies that what He is asking to you is faith—a trusting, believing, eternal, unshaken and worry-free faith. He provides. He answers. He wants you to enjoy every moment of your life and live at the present and dwell not on the future or past. He wants you to believe that whatever you are doing is according to His plan. To be cheerful means you gave up everything to Him. Your heart must no longer feel troubled the moment you give your faith to him.

It’s easy to say that, “I have faith in God.” However, it’s a different story when you try combating your troubled heart because you cannot trust Him completely. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the every day injustice especially if you are awfully intelligent, exceptionally skilled, and emotionally strong. You’re pretty confident that you are in control with your life and you deserve more than you are already having. Eventually, you shifted from having faith in God to having faith solely on yourself. That’s when the ultra ego of yours emerges. Unknowingly, you start now praying to yourself and not to God. You tell yourself, “I can do this. I am better than those other people who deceive others while I am all good. I do not do that. I do not need to do that because I am talented, skilled and intelligent. Besides that, I am even charming and charismatic. People cannot resist me.” Consequently, you would soon realize that you alone cannot face the problem alone. That’s understandable, you’re only human and that’s precisely why you still need a God to walk with you in every step of your life. However, instead of going back to God and asking Him for forgiveness for neglecting Him as center of His life and asking for strength to successfully overcoming the challenges that you are facing, some people begin their litany, not of prayers, but of complaints of all the hardship that he or she suffered in this crazy world. Blaming God seemed easier than praying to him. Pride often makes our relationship not only with God but with other people ugly.

The paradox, “We often hurt the ones we love,” apply here. We love God but we sometimes forget about Him. We take Him for granted. We live life without remembering our vow of love to Him. That’s why at times we are tested. These are the times when we feel that He is not listening to us. These are the times when dreams do not come true, nothing goes right and you feel useless because your life is a mess. There is no direction at sight. Deplorable and melancholic memories kept repeating on your head like a broken record. When this point of my life happened some months ago, I went to the church and cried without knowing when I’ll stop. I did not ask God why anymore, I just want to cry and cry over and over again to Him. In my silence, both my mouth and mind, that’s when I felt He understood me. An inner peace settled in my heart knowing that He acknowledges my efforts and that is all that matters. I’m home that I found Him again. He was never gone, but I was. Though I thought that I followed His commandments, I wandered away from Him believing that I could face problems alone.

Cheerfulness did not happen at once. It began with telling everyone that I was okay though I still doubt a lot about my competencies. Standing again after a bad fall was harder than I thought. The fall made my soul crippled. Every new step made me wail a bit because of pain. I sometimes have this mini-falls after that big bad one along the way. But God was patiently with me. For some reasons, last semester, something comes up whenever I am not ready for a recitation. When I didn’t study enough, I’m surprised that the some concepts that I studied actually made it into our examinations. Could this be explained by coincidence and logic? I answer in the negative. There were way too much perfect timings. Also, whenever I feel lonely, I suddenly see myself talking to a missed friend either on-line or better yet, offline.

Cheerfulness means being happy on what you have now without worrying if you’ll be happy again tomorrow. It means laughing to yourself at your blunders. Cheerfulness is sharing poignant experiences to a friend and promising that you’ll pray for each other. It means being glad that you have a home to go to even if you had a bad day at school. Cheerfulness means waiting on a long line and befriending people who are also waiting. Cheerfulness means being struck in traffic with no signs what time are you going to arrive home and receiving a text message that someone is waiting for you to come back. Cheerfulness is when you worked for something and somebody appreciated it. It means that you walk on sunshine and dance on the rain.

Cheerfulness is what the big brother of the prodigal son felt after he realized without impurity in his heart that his brother had returned.

Cheerfulness is following God wholeheartedly and lastly, cheerfulness is multiplying it to your own reader. 🙂

“He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.” ---Psalm 72:6
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2 thoughts on “The Prodigal Son’s Brother’s Cheerfulness

  1. and so to summarize, ignorance is bliss. haha!

    a small counterpoint: why is it that they say ‘nasa Diyos ang awa pero nasa tao ang gawa’ if all we need to do is wait for his graces?

    you see, i believe we are all destined for greatness, and as i’ve hinted on my last post, this is precisely what holds us back – the rationalizations that because you have a god that provides, you could slack off; that we should feel contented, and thus, not push for something grander. we rationalize every failure to be something that this god gives us and something that we deserve. inaasa natin masyado lahat sa diyos na to.

    i’m sure the one true God would appreciate it if people actually strived to be better people, not simply depend everything on him. if having faith in this god of yours would mean being mindless and lazy, then i’m turning my back to religion.

    1. No, I am not saying that you slack off or be ignorant on everything that is happening around you just because you believe in God. I, too, believe that I am meant for greatness and I believe that greatness in you too. :). What I want to emphasize is to accept everything—both good and bad—cheerfully. On the contrary, you must work harder. Why? That’s because of the presumption that you love yourself and your God. We always want more for someone who we love, right?

      The problem happens once you both do not love both yourself and our God. The problem that happened to me, and perhaps you now, is you push yourself too hard—alone. We do not want to make mistakes. We do all these things because of the people that we love on earth—our parents, most likely—but not for ourselves that’s why every failure we encountered we suddenly become lazy in life. If we lose that thing we were so aiming for, we found ourselves purposeless. God provides, yes. But He provides only by giving out little blessings and circumstances along our way. He provides us friends and family to show that He is alive and supporting you along the way. Contentment is not seeing that you’re already fulfilled and would stop there because God so provides. Contentment is what my favorite St. Paul’s life response. He says in Philippians 4:12-13:

      “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”

      You can do anything, Dex. I’m not exactly sure what is exactly going on to your life, but whatever challenges that you are facing now, kakayanin mo yan. You are a very deep person with a deep sense of knowledge and skill. You are capable and dependable. You are hardworking and persevering. But you despite this, you’re only human. You commit mistakes and get hurt but you do not need to suffer alone in silence which you always do. You need God and God needs you to trust in Him more. Don’t turn back on Him, rather walk towards Him. Needless to say, as a friend, I’ll support and cheer you up come what may. 🙂

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