By Jessica Brodie, Crosswalk.com
There’s a smile, and then there’s a smile. The first is that kind you give when someone calls out, “Say Cheese!” and the corners of your lips curve upwards and your eyebrows lift. The second is a real smile—the kind that lights up your face and involves genuine eye contact, the kind that reflects joy in your face and shows your teeth, the kind that’s authentic, soul to soul, not fake or superficial. The kind of smile that shows your heart.
Those kinds of smiles can be a special gift to the world, showing love in a way that helps foster God’s kingdom here and now.
I’ve been told I’m a “smiley person,” and that’s probably very true. Smiling is a simple thing we can all do. It costs nothing, and it’s a way we can love others without words or touch, yet it can mean so much.
I smile when things are bad and when things are good. I smile because of the joy within me, a joy no earthly circumstance can ever take away. I smile because the love of the Lord lives within my heart, and I cannot keep it silent.
Here’s what I’ve learned about one of the best free gifts in the world: a smile.
A Smile Brings Warmth and Comfort
The world can be a cold, isolating, and dark place, and a smile can bring warmth and comfort to someone who feels very much alone.
I’ve found myself at a store with a grumpy cashier, someone obviously overburdened and worn-out by the demands of her job and perhaps her life off the job, as well. Yet when I catch her eye and offer a real smile, I can see it catch her off-guard. I notice her attitude start to shift slightly.
Once, when I worked at a coffee shop on the weekends, a quiet older man would come in most mornings alone, and I’d always greet him with a smile. Much later he told me my smile was a spark of light for him in an otherwise gloomy day. He’d been going through a personal crisis, yet having another person—a perfect stranger—offer some light in the form of a smile brought encouragement and comfort.
Proverbs 15:13 tells us, “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” And a few verses later, it says, “Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.”
We can shine God’s radiance and offer a glimmer of hope and comfort with a light-filled smile.
A Smile Says ‘I See You’
So many people feel alone, unimportant, and irrelevant. Maybe they have lost loved ones, or gone through a time of pain. Maybe they feel stuck in a dead-end job or are facing a difficult medical diagnosis. Maybe they struggle with the weight of mental illness or addiction—or sin.
A smile tears past all that directly into the heart of another person. A smile says “I see you. You are not anonymous. You are not part of the background or scenery. You are a fellow human in this journey of life with me, and you matter.”
A close friend loved to tell me he smiles at strangers just to let them know they are seen. Perhaps, he wondered, his smile was the only friendly face that person saw all day.
We don’t know someone else’s circumstances or difficulties, but if we have joy in our hearts, we can let that shine out to touch others with an authentic smile and a look of compassion.
God knows each of us intimately. Psalm 139:13-16 praises God for this, reflecting, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
And Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
The Holy Spirit can share that truth with another through your smile—if you let it shine.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Eva Blanco
A Smile Can Be Attractive
A smile can draw someone else your way and make them wonder, “What’s their secret?” Perhaps they wonder why you’re smiling. What’s the meaning behind your joy? What happiness do you have that so many in this world do not? Perhaps they come closer, curious. They sense the joy within and cannot help but step closer.
If this happens to be a smile you offer an acquaintance or coworker or someone else you see semi-regularly, that smile can serve as a proverbial foot in the door when it comes to evangelism. Think about it: Perhaps it helps initiate a conversation, and that leads to inviting that person to church or telling them honestly why are you have that hope (Jesus).
A coworker once asked me why I was always so smiley, and I remember telling her I just had peace in my heart because of my faith. She got a funny look on her face.
“Like, church?” she asked, wrinkling her nose a bit.
“Yes, but more than that,” I explained. “It’s just this … this hope I have deep inside that everything is going to be OK, that God is handling everything no matter what.”
She ended up coming to church with me a few times after that. While I’ve long since moved away, I’d love to think she’s a Christian today because of what she saw that appealed to her. She wanted that joy and peace, too.
The Holy Spirit gives us lasting joy that bubbles up and out into the world. As the apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 8:1-2, the Macedonian churches were going through a time of intense hardship, yet despite this, “Their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.”
Joy can be contagious. It inspires others to joy, as well.
The next time you feel shy about offering a smile to someone you don’t know, gather your courage and let that joy shine out to all through the expression on your face.
You never know the impact it can have on another life.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at jessicabrodie.com. She has a weekly YouTube devotional, too. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.