A Joyful Heart (a daily proverb)

This devotional series examines a verse or two from a chapter of Proverbs each day of January 2017.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. ~Proverbs 17:22

We all know the experience of pain, suffering, and sadness in life. What is the best way to not be overcome by it? Joy.

This may sound almost self-defeating. After all, if I am pained or saddened, then how am I to have joy? How am I to have the thing that Solomon calls “good medicine”? The answer is to look outside ourselves.

The Bible doesn’t sugarcoat suffering. It doesn’t hold up joy as an unobtainable ideal for those in the midst of pain. Rather, it helps us to find the root of joy even in the midst of pain.

Joy is a sense of happiness, but it’s not a happiness found despite our pain or ignoring our pain. Instead, it is a happiness that directs us to look through the pain at the great hope of the promises of God. God never promised a pain-free life, but he does promise to walk with us through our suffering and he gives us hope beyond our suffering.

In part, he does this as the joyful Savior who suffered along with us. Hebrews 12:2 says of Jesus that “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The cross was where Jesus bleed, suffered, and died. The cross is where Jesus felt the full weight of the wrath of God for the sins of his people. The cross was suffering and pain. But through the cross, Jesus saved rebellious sinners to be his brothers and sisters. Through the cross, Jesus gathered a people for his joy and glory.

So, Jesus was able to look forward to what would be accomplished beyond the cross in order to take joy.

James wrote: “Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2-3). So, James points us not to the pain of the trial, but through the trial to what God will use it to accomplish in our lives. In that, even with tears of pain, we can have a deep abiding joy that helps to carry us through.

And that is good medicine for our souls.

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