The truth? Being happy has nothing to do with money or fame, and everything to do with the heart.
For years, I quoted this week’s verse while watching audiences experience the healing power of laughter. To be honest, I only shared the first half of the verse. The happy bit: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (KJV). Yes, it does.
Then you voted for Proverbs 17:22 as one of your favorites, and I had to consider the second half of the verse. The serious bit: “…but a broken spirit drieth the bones” (KJV).
Have I experienced that brokenness? Yes, I have.
Perhaps you have as well. Keep reading, beloved.
A cheerful heart… Proverbs 17:22
We’ll start with the happy part, the good news. The Hebrew word sameach means “joyful, merry.” Not necessarily LOL, just having “a glad heart” (NLV).
It’s Christmas morning, with gifts tucked under a glistening tree. It’s Mother’s Day, surrounded by children and grandchildren. It’s a graduation ceremony, with mortar boards tossed into the air. It’s happily ever after, when the bride and groom kiss.
Those moments might not make you laugh, but they’ll definitely make you smile, maybe even tear up. A warm glow fills you like a candle, burning inside the place the Hebrew language calls lebh—your “inner man.”
It’s not the physical heart beating inside your chest that makes you cheerful.
It’s a state of mental health. It’s a “joyful mind” (DRA).
In a word, it’s “happiness” (ERV).
…is good medicine,… Proverbs 17:22
Like an invisible vitamin, cheerfulness “works healing” (AMP) in your body. You begin to realize “you feel good” (CEV). Invigorated. Stronger. In “good health” (GNV).
The “curative balm” (VOICE) that happiness provides isn’t your imagination working overtime. It’s the Lord working full time. It’s the Great Physician providing gehah—in Hebrew, “a healing, a cure.”
The benefits of being joyful are countless. Your blood pressure goes down, your ability to fight infection goes up, and the face you present to the world has fewer frown lines.
…but… Proverbs 17:22
This little word is the hinge on which many proverbs turn. When bad news comes first, the word but gives us hope that good news will follow.
In this verse?
But tells us there is a great deal more to the story.
…a crushed spirit… Proverbs 17:22
Can you feel the weight of it, pressing on her shoulders? on yours?
When our spirit is crushed, our eyes give us away. Even if we’re smiling, people can see the pain and sadness inside. There’s a lack of sparkle, a dullness in our gaze.
Despite our best efforts, “sorrow” (ERV) can’t be hidden. “Depression” (GW) can’t be ignored. A “broken spirit” (ASV) can’t be easily mended with a word or two.
“Lighten up!” “Snap out of it!” “C’mon, get happy!”
These are not helpful comments for someone with “a downcast spirit” (LEB). If a loved one—if you, dear friend—feel “gloomy all the time” (GNT), it will take more than a funny story, a humorous cartoon, or a clever one-liner to bring back your joy.
If laughter alone had the power to save us, Robin Williams would still be alive.
…dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22
In Hebrew, yabesh means “withered.” Yes. That’s it. Withered.
Depression “is a disease” (ERV) that “dries you up” (NIRV). It “drains your strength” (EXB), until “you hurt all over” (CEV) and are left “bone-tired” (MSG).
Depression is a “slow death” (GNT).
September 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day. In an open letter to Robin Williams, psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow describes what depression looks and feels like, and what can and should be done for someone who is suffering, often in silence.
Please note, he does use one expletive (even with a *star*, the word is obvious), but in every other way Dr. Ablow’s letter is spot on and well worth reading.
I especially applaud his closing thoughts: “It is not too late for the millions suffering with major depression. No, it is never too late when the enemy relies entirely on deception to do its dark work.”
We know that enemy. He has a name. The adversary, the father of lies, the enemy of our souls “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Depression is one of his favorite weapons, perhaps because it’s often wrapped in fear and shame. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 121 million people worldwide have some form of depression.
Depression is physical, mental, emotional, biological, spiritual, and chemical.
Depression is real.
Is there any hope?
Yes. Depression is treatable. If you or someone you love suffers from depression…
- You are not alone.
- Depression is not your fault.
- Your loving Savior can help you take back your life.
- He may use counselors or physicians or medicines to do so.
Oh, my. This post took a more serious turn than I expected. I wasn’t planning on telling you that I was diagnosed in April with clinical depression. Or that I’m on medication now.
Your ever-joyful Lizzie, who has loved Jesus for three decades? Yes.
Why even mention it? Because I love you. If my admission gives you the courage to seek professional help, then praise God.
I will leave any additional advice to those who are qualified, but may I just say this? There is zero shame in taking an antidepressant. It’s not a crutch for weak people. And it doesn’t mean you don’t trust God.
If your body needs more serotonin, then swallow your pride and swallow the pill your doctor prescribes for you. Don’t let the fear of “What will people think?” keep you from getting the help you need.
When our minds and bodies are no longer fighting against us, then joy has a chance to settle into our bones and begin the healing process.
True joy is knowing God, and being known by Him. True joy is surrendering to His will and letting Him use every means at His disposal to rescue us from darkness and bring us into the light.
He has rescued me. He has rescued many.
Job, who suffered great losses, wrote with confidence, “He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy” (Job 8:21).
David, who regularly poured out his fears and sorrows, nonetheless told the Lord, “You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11).
Jesus, even knowing the cross waited for Him, assured his followers, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).
That’s my prayer for you today, beloved: complete joy and freedom in Christ.
Now it’s your turn
- Has God whispered something you needed to hear in this week’s study?
I hope you’ll Post a Comment below, if only to let people know they are not alone. What matters far more is that you share the truth with your family, with your doctor, and above all, with the Lord, who wants His people well and whole.
Please know, I sensed His leading as I wrote this post, and am trusting Him to use everything for the good of those who love Him. As I’ve often said, it doesn’t matter what you think of me. It only matters what you think of Jesus.
Your grateful sister, Liz