Why Has Your Countenance Fallen?
Many of us remember singing a song as kids that goes like this: “If you’re happy and you know it…then your face will surely show it.” This phrase is so much more than a cute little kid’s song. It’s a reality! Our countenance is a reflection of our heart. Whether it be happy or sad, joyful or sorrowful. In fact we see this in the following proverb.
A happy heart makes the face cheerful,
but heartache crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15:13 NIV)
So many people have a heavy heart due to anxiety, anger, depression, oppression, and the like and we see it in their…countenance.
Countenance is defined as: appearance, especially the look or expression of the face; demeanor. So I ask, what does your countenance say about your heart? Are you happy–and I don’t mean with a superficial temporary feeling but an inner joy of the Lord? The joy of the Lord is truly our strength and when you feel weak, you need more strength, joy, and peace in your heart that only comes from Christ. He said he gives us peace, but not as the world gives and that his joy he gives…“no one can take it from you.” Stop allowing joy stealers to operate in your life. They have no right to do so in our lives as believers. That’s not to say that we won’t have opposition. Jesus said we would have tribulation (trials and afflictions) in this world but to be of good courage because he has overcome the world. We learn from one of the first stories shared in Scripture this truth about our countenance reflecting our attitude and more so our relationship with God. It reads as follows:
So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the LORD 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.” (Gen.4:3-7 NASB)
Notice that Cain is upset and in a state of sin and bitterness. The story goes on to say that he murdered his brother simply because Abel was righteous and Cain was not. He then lied about it to God. But what I want to focus on is what God asks him about his countenance. God gives Cain the chance to repent and do right but he refuses and falls farther away and deeper into sin and rebellion–which God warned about in the verse above by personifying sin as a ravage animal crouching and waiting to pounce on its victim. This picture reminds me of those shows on Discovery Channel where the water buffalo practically drink water off the back of the alligators at the edge of the riverbank and in a moment of time, they strike!
We cannot see how close we can get to sin before it affects us. It will always catch us off guard and destroy. In the case of Cain, it had to do with his temper/anger issue as well as jealousy for his brother. We have to keep our emotions/feelings in check by the Holy Spirit. Scripture tells us that a man without self control is like a city broken into and left without walls. We have all seen those movies from the middle ages. When the walls came down, the cities would be taken over by enemy infiltration. We have to keep the walls– our boundaries–up in our lives and be on the alert at all times for that devil that Peter said is like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.
What really sticks out to me and causes me to write this article is specifically when God says: “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?” When we do right and live godly with a clean conscience, it makes us to walk with a holy confidence and peaceful demeanor.
People should see the light of God in our face because we walk in the light of his countenance. My desire is to live in the reality of Gods promise that says: “The Lord lift up his countenance on you, and give you peace.” When we are not in right relationship with God, it causes there to be an emptiness and despondency which shows in our countenance and when we are at peace with God that too shows in our demeanor. That is why God told Cain to do right and have your countenance lifted up. This simple truth really shines through (no pun intended) in the following two translations:
Will not your face be happy if you do well? (Gen.4:7 NLV)
If you had done the right thing, you would be smiling. (CEV)
Most translations simply say you will “be accepted” which seems to mislead and cause us to miss this vital truth concerning our relationship with God and its influence on our countenance. The Hebrew means to elevate; lift up, which is captured well in the NASB, and carries the idea of cheerfulness. The psalmist at a real down point in his life encouraged himself with the following:
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. (Ps. 43:5 NASB)
God’s presence lifts us up when we are down. The Hebrew for “the help of my countenance” is literally the salvation of my face. Earlier, David mentions thanks to God for the help of his presence. We must remember when we are feeling down the inspiring words of David about God that “He is our glory and the lifter of our head.”
So let us not be in despair but rest in God, knowing that when we are peace with him we can walk in peace with others. May we, the church, truly be happy and know it. And may our faces surely show it!