Counseling One Another

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Counseling One Another

Proverbs 12:25, Anxiety and Depression, and Healing Speech

Recently, while preparing to teach a master’s in biblical counseling course in Ukraine, I’ve been thinking about the body/soul connection; i.e. the fact that we are embodied spirits—each part affecting the other. In particular, my thoughts have been on Proverbs 12:25, its remarkable simplicity and, yet, its depth of wisdom. It reads, “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” Not only does the wise counselor Solomon teach that the spirit affects the body, but he makes an extraordinary observation about the power of good words to minister healing grace to the burdened heart. How often do our sad friends need words of encouragement? How often could words of grace be part of God’s remedy, a necessary ingredient in the restoration of another person’s joy?

While studying this verse, one of the commentaries I consulted is one of my top 5 picks: Proverbs, A Mentor Commentary. I found John Kitchen’s explanation of this verse so helpful, encouraging to my own heart, and challenging to my personal growth as one who longs to be more faithful in speaking both grace and truth at the same time. Kitchen writes,

“The proverb gives remarkable insight into the psychology of depression. The word translated ‘weighs it down’ probably carries the idea of being depressed (cf. NKJV). That which produces the depression is anxiety. The anxiety spoken of is worry mingled with fear. For example, the word is used to describe the fear of the tribes of Israel which settled on the east of Jordan. They feared that, when cut off from the tabernacle and its sacrifices, their children would forget the Lord. For this reason, out of their anxiety, they set up an alternative altar (Josh. 22:24; cf. Jer. 49:23; Ezek. 4:16; 12:18-19). Under the weight of some anticipated calamity, the heart can begin to be bowed down, the thoughts can be consumed, and perspective can be lost. ‘A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken’ (Prov. 15:13). ‘A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones’ (Prov. 17:22).

The remedy is ‘a good word’ from a supportive friend. The word is ‘good’ in that it is timely, measured according to the need of the moment and confers grace (Eph. 4:29). Such a word brings ‘hope.’ The anticipated tragedy is not perceived to be as likely. The character of God comes again into view and, with it, other more pleasant possibilities. ‘A man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word!’ (Prov. 15:23). ‘…the tongue of the wise brings healing’ (Prov. 12:18b).”

As we fill our minds with the hope-empowering truth of Scripture, our mouths will be more readily used by God to bring words of healing hope to those whose spirit is broken.

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