What the Redbird Told me
Charles Naylor, 1920
It was a cold winter morning. Snow covered the ground. The frost on the trees sparkled in the bright sunlight like ten thousand diamonds. But the brightness outside seemed to find no reflection in me. I had been confined to my bed for more than six months. I was gloomy and despondent. It seemed as though all the light and joy had gone out of my life — and that only pain and suffering and sorrow were left to me. I had no desire to live. Again and again I prayed that I might die. I would have welcomed any form of death — even the most horrible death. I had grown morbid, and almost despaired. I had been prayed for again and again — but the healing touch came not. Life seemed to hold for me no ray of hope, no gleam of sunshine.
As I lay brooding in my melancholy state, a Red Grosbeak, with his bright red plumage, alighted on a tree a few feet from my window. His eyes sparkled as he gazed at me with interest. He turned his head now this way and now that, apparently studying me intently, and then he gave a cheery call and hopped as near to me as he could get and repeated his cries over and over. Somehow his cries took the form of words in my mind. This is what he said to me, "You, you, you — cheer up, cheer up, cheer up!" He hopped about from limb to limb, wiping his beak, picking at pieces of bark, but ever and anon hopping back to look at me and cry again. "Cheer up, cheer up, cheer up!" This he did for a long time, then he flew away, only to return soon and to peer at me again, crying his merry "You, you, you — cheer up, cheer up, cheer up!" For more than two hours he continued to repeat this and then went away, and far in the distance I heard the last echoes of his notes still saying, "Cheer up, cheer up!"
It seemed as though God had sent the bird to bring a message to my soul. As I thought of the cold and the snow and the winter winds, of the bird's uncertain supply of food, of his many enemies, and considered that, in spite of all this, he could be so cheerful and mirthful — it made me feel ashamed that I should be so melancholy and despondent. His message, enforced by his example, sank into my heart.
I began to think over the favorable side of my situation. I began to consider how many things the Lord had bestowed upon me in the past — his saving mercy, his kindness, and his blessings. My heart took courage — and hope began to lift herself up from the dust. I reflected over the way I had yielded to discouragement. I saw that if I was ever to rise above it, I must set myself resolutely to the task of looking upon the bright side and of overcoming the gloom and heaviness. The message of the bird made me ashamed to submit longer to my selfish feelings. I resolved then and there that I would be different — and from that day, I began to act and think and speak more cheerfully.
Many times I had to act contrary to the way I felt, but I found that this was having an influence upon my feelings, and the more I practiced being cheerful — the more cheerful I became. Many times I have been sorely pressed down in spirit, but I have found that I can act cheerfully and talk cheerfully even in the midst of depression — and that this is not hypocrisy, but the true way in which to meet such things and conquer them.
Cheerfulness is largely a matter of habit. We must do one of two things: either yield to our feelings and let them be our master — or compel our feelings to yield to us that we may be their master. It is a case of conquering — or being conquered. So many people are at the mercy of their emotions. If they do not feel well in body, or their mind is troubled, or their spiritual sky is clouded — they yield themselves to gloomy thoughts and look upon the dark side of the picture. Their thoughts and feelings are reflected in their face, and actions and words. This, in turn, reacts upon them, and they then feel worse in body and mind. Everyone around them knows how they feel.
This is putting a premium on your bad feelings. It is encouraging them. And it is a very bad habit. You can be cheerful if you will to. Do not wear your troubles on your face. Do not let them put a note of sadness in your voice. Cease your sighing — you are only adding to your burdens.
Take the birds advice — and cheer up! You can if you will. You can hide your burdens, instead of advertising them. To hide them, will help you to forget them. You have a place to put your burdens, "Casting all your care upon Him."
I still suffer; I still have periods of mental depression — but I have learned to be cheerful and not let these things be on exhibition. I find it now the easier, and by far the better, way.
Cheerfulness is a habit — get the habit. It depends upon your attitude — not upon your circumstances. You can rule your circumstances — instead of letting them rule you. Take hold of your bad feelings, and conquer them with cheerfulness. The task may not be easy at first, but keep at it and you will win. Do not despair if you lose a few battles. You may have cultivated gloom for so long a time, that it has become the fixed state of your mind. Overcome the habit. God will help you. When your feelings become gloomy, say, "I will not be so!" and force your mind into other channels. It will want to go back to its former habit, but as often as you catch yourself thinking along gloomy lines — turn your thoughts back to the sunshine. Put good cheer into your voice and a smile on your face — no matter how you feel. It will prove a tonic for soul, mind, and body. Listen to the redbird. Hear his merry "Cheer up, cheer up!" and act upon his advice. You will find it most helpful.