When you long for blue October skies, bright autumn colors, and majestic mountains, head for Oregon (we just did). When you need a dose of healthy laughter, come to the Higgs house for dinner.
Everybody wanted homemade lasagna. My cooking skills are limited, but I can usually manage to layer pasta, ricotta cheese, and tomato sauce in a baking dish without mishap.
However, I’d never made two dishes at once — one for the meat lovers and one for the vegetarians in the family. When I reached for some wax paper so I could lay out the freshly cooked pasta to cool, I found to my dismay that the box was empty.
“Just leave the pasta in the hot water,” my son suggested. “Maybe add a little oil to keep it from sticking together.”
The first dish came together easily enough. But when I started on the second, the slippery, overcooked pasta came out of the water, not in long, ruffled strips, but in oddly shaped hunks. By the time I finished, my veggie lasagna looked like something a five-year-old would make with modeling clay.
Did I burst into tears? I did not. I burst out laughing.
Soon I was laughing so hard I had to sit down. My family, who’d wandered off, came back into the kitchen. “Mom? Are you all right?”
I was howling by this point, tears streaming down my face. When they saw the lasagna, they understood. Sort of.
All I know is, I hadn’t carried on like that in weeks. Months. And this verse from Proverbs is the absolute truth.
A cheerful heart is good medicine,… Proverbs 17:22
Like an invisible vitamin, cheerfulness “works healing” (AMPC) in your body until at last “you feel good” (CEV). 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 physical 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.
Alas, what happens when we lose our joy is another story.
…but a crushed spirit… Proverbs 17:22
Can you feel the weight of it pressing on your heart? When our spirits are 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, and a “broken spirit” (ASV) can’t be easily mended with a word or two.
“Lighten up!” people tell us. “Snap out of it!” These are not helpful comments for someone with “a downcast spirit” (LEB). For those who feel “gloomy all the time” (GNT), it takes more than a funny story, a humorous cartoon, or a clever one-liner to bring back the joy.
…dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22
In Hebrew yabesh means “withered.” A perfect description for how depression makes you feel. It’s “a disease” (ERV) that “dries you up” (NIrV), that “drains your strength” (EXB) until “you hurt all over” (CEV) and are left “bone-tired” (MSG).
Depression is one of the Enemy’s favorite weapons. The debilitation is physical, mental, emotional, biological, spiritual, chemical, and very real.
Is there any hope? Absolutely. If you or someone you love suffers from depression, you are not alone. Your loving Savior can help you take back your life. He may use counselors or physicians or medicines to do so, but you can be sure the healing comes from Him.
A few Aprils ago I was diagnosed with clinical depression. Your ever-joyful Lizzie, who has loved Jesus for more than three decades? Yes. Why mention it here? Because I care about you, dear sister. And if my admission gives you the courage to seek professional advice, then praise God.
Please 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 any means He chooses to rescue us from darkness and bring us into the light.
He has rescued me. He has rescued many.
Our Jesus, 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, beloved: complete joy and freedom in Christ. Even when times are hard, keep a tight grip on this truth: “He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy” (Job 8:21).
This month’s post is excerpted from Chapter 18 of 31 Proverbs to Light Your Path. On October 25, I chose five readers to receive autographed copies. Congrats to Laura from Kentucky, Karen from Michigan, Arleen from Oklahoma, Melinda from Washington, and Sherry from Virginia!
Honored to encourage you, this month and every month.
Your sister, Liz
P.S. We have seven more events this November on our Endless Hope Tour presented by Prison Fellowship International. I’d love to see you in Mishawaka IN; Greencastle IN; Fargo ND; Williston ND; Louisville KY; Haskell OK; or Oklahoma City OK. Laughter, worship, wisdom from God’s Word, and yes, endless hope! Join us?