Wisdom

A Cure for the Heartsick

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Delayed hope makes one sick at heart,

but a fulfilled longing is a tree of life.

Whoever despises ⌊God’s⌋ words will pay the penalty,

but the one who fears ⌊God’s⌋ commands will be rewarded. (Proverbs 13:12-13 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 13:1-13 GW)


The heart of a person can't be expressed with an emoji and it's far more complex than the outline of a heart made with two fingers and thumbs.

When we talk about a person's heart, we speak of a person's inner being. It's deeper than our emotions but certainly affects us emotionally in ways that are good, bad, or indifferent.

Indifferent is worse than bad. Indifference to emotions indicates an emotional blankness—what psychologists call a flat affect—having no response to external stimulus or situations. It can indicate shock, numbness, or even clinical depression for example.

An indifferent nature is far worse. When a person is indifferent to others, it often indicates anti-social behavioral tendencies. Being sick at heart indicates a profound sadness and a sense of hopelessness—a human spirit that's crushed.

What causes someone to be sick at heart? According to this verse in Proverbs—a delayed hope. A hope that is set aside by circumstances beyond a person's control. It's more than unfilled expectations. It goes deeper.

This type of delayed hope comes in many ways. A refugee in a worn-torn area longs for peace and safety. When someone longs for a marriage partner or having a child, they also can become heartsick.

Obviously, some life situations are more dire and pressing than others but a person who is sick at heart focuses on whatever hope seems most important to them.

This proverb goes on to say, but a fulfilled longing is a tree of life. This isn't the longing of a selfish desire, it's much deeper.

When refugees find peace and safety, it's certainly more fulfilling than a good meal or gaining any possession. When we witnessed adoptive parents uniting with the child or children they were adopting through our ministry, it was a sweet and emotionally fulfilling time.

The key or cure for those who are heartsick is a change in what they're focused on. This is indicated in the following verse—

but the one who fears ⌊God’s⌋ commands will be rewarded. (Prov 13:13b GW)

The fear of God isn't a state of anxious fear but trust—a personal trust in God. I heard an interview of a journalist who was kidnapped by Muslim pirates and held several years for ransom. He hated his captors and longed for freedom.

When he heard a religious leader speak of mercy and forgiveness, he began to change his view of his captors by forgiving them.

He said it began to change his attitude towards his captors and seemingly hopeless situation. His heart and outlook lightened up. He acknowledged it required discipline. He had to work at forgiving them each day. Eventually, the day came for him to be freed—a longing fulfilled.

Are you sick at heart because of a longing in your heart or a hope that seems to get pushed back over and over again? The cure is a change of focus.

This is similar to what King David and the Lord Jesus said—

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:33-34)

Set the eyes of your heart on the One to whom nothing is impossible. Not just once but daily, even many times within a day, till it becomes a personal discipline—a commitment of your heart.

Reflection—

Set your heart on the Lord as your primary focus—not on what you are heartsick for or about. Do this so it becomes a personal discipline—a commitment of your heart—and trust whatever you are longing for to God.

Prayer Focus—

Learning to trust God in a deep way requires commitment and discipline in prayer. Prayer is the lifeline for communication with God—to share what's on our hearts and to spend time to wait and listen for Him.

©Word-Strong_2018


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Lifting the Weight of an Anxious Heart

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A person’s anxiety will weigh him down,

but an encouraging word makes him joyful. (Proverbs 12:25 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 12:15-28 GW)


It's an epidemic. Opioid addiction has become a national epidemic in America. But it's not only opioid-based medications that are a problem. A myriad of disorders ranging from depression to behavioral problems has brought a plague of prescription drugs on our nation.

We may be a rich and powerful nation but we're weighed down with worry and can't seem to get out from under this burden without a prescription.

But there is another way to deal with this problem. A surprisingly simple way. It doesn't require a doctor appointment nor a prescription, nor any specialized training.

Anxiety may weigh a person down—

...but an encouraging word makes him joyful.

It may seem too simplistic. Indeed, some psychological disorders may still require treatment and medications but genuine and meaningful encouragement is still helpful in severe cases. I've seen this firsthand.

Words are powerful. They can tear down or build someone up. They're rarely neutral. What we hear is played back in our minds over and over, like a never-ending recording. It's called self-talk.

Destructive words go deep. They penetrate our hearts and embed themselves in our minds.

Careless words stab like a sword... (Prov 12:18a GW)

It doesn't matter who utters these piercing words. When spoken by those we're closest to—parents, a spouse, siblings, children, significant others, friends, people at work or school—their wounding words go deep.

So, how can this be countered?

How can you and I deal with worries and wounding words?

We all need to hear encouraging words of truth often and from people we trust. People who are trustworthy and those whom we know genuinely care about us. Likewise, we need to speak encouraging words and be genuine and trustworthy for others.

Here is the counter to the words that "stab like a sword"—

...but the words of wise people bring healing. (Prov 12:18b GW)

Notice it says, "words." Not casual or trite statements like—"Oh, they didn't really mean that..." or, "just ignore what they say." Genuine and encouraging words are needed.

Words of encouragement need to come from people wise enough to know what is needed and what is appropriate for each person. They also need to be words of truth—

The word of truth lasts forever... (Prov 12:19a GW)

If your heart is anxious and if you're weighed down with many worries, you need to be around people you trust. People who can encourage you with the truth. 

Where? Church is good place to start but I know too many wounding words are spoken by people in churches.

We need to seek out a community of believers who are accepting and loving in a biblical but non-judgmental way. It could be a church or a small group connected to a church or ministry.

There are no quick fixes with prescriptive words and phrases. Bible quotes are nice but can easily be said in trite ways (see James 2:15-16).

A continuing flow of encouraging truth is the only way healing and restoration go deep enough in our hearts and minds. This will lighten the load of worries and wounds we encounter.

Reflection—

If your heart is anxious and if you're weighed down with many worries, you need to be around people you trust. People who can encourage you with the truth.

Prayer Focus—

Ask God to help you see encouraging words in His written word, the Bible. If you don't have encouraging people around you, ask the Lord to help you find people you can trust and who are encouraging and for His help to be the same way for them.

©Word-Strong_2018


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Good Roots

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A person cannot stand firm on a foundation of wickedness,

and the roots of righteous people cannot be moved.

...but the roots of righteous people produce ⌊fruit⌋.

One person enjoys good things as a result of his speaking ability.

Another is paid according to what his hands have accomplished. (Proverbs 12:3, 12b, 14 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 12:1-14 GW)


Every hurricane season, trees are uprooted, seashores are eroded, and homes get flooded. Such is life in the Carribean, Florida, and all along the Gulf Coast.

In SE Asia, typhoon season brings similar scenes. Not only are trees uprooted, many homes are completely washed away with storm surge and flash floods. Though not unusual, it's still devastating for families to lose homes, livelihoods, and even, for some, the lives of loved ones.

Whether trees or homes or people's lives, a solid foundation is vital for enduring powerful storms. Roots are the foundation of a plant or tree and provide a network for sustenance essential for life.

These two verses referring to the "roots of the righteous" speak of two outcomes—they "cannot be moved" and they "produce fruit." Stability and life.

What's the key to these "roots of the righteous?" Their roots are in solid ground and soil that's nutrient-rich with sufficient water.

An immediate reference to the truth of God can be drawn from the larger context of Proverbs and the figurative lesson in Psalm 1:1-3.

I see another reference in verse 14—

One person enjoys good things as a result of his speaking ability. Another is paid according to what his hands have accomplished.

Families and cultures can produce tremendous pressure on a person to conform to what's most likely to lead to a successful future. But many times it's at the cost of a person's identity and integrity—their internal essence—their spirit.

We're all wired differently. We all have different gifts and skills. Many people are not suited for college but do well with practical training in what they do best and countless university degrees never factor into a person's life work.

Each of us needs to stay grounded in who we are as God created us to be.

Some people are good with words, both learning and teaching in an academic environment, or in other ways of expressing thoughts and ideas through words. Others are good with their hands and actions, they build or create things skillfully and are content with doing things well.

How can a person know for sure what they are best suited to do?

When each of us is well-grounded in our relationship with the Creator and Sustainer of our life—the One who knows us best—it's much easier to know what we were created to do best.

The important thing is being rooted in a personal relationship with the Lord and living our life guided by His truth and wisdom.

Reflection—

If you want to know what your purpose in life is—what you were created to do well—then allow the roots of your life to grow deep in a well-grounded relationship with God.

Prayer Focus—

Pray for discernment and wisdom. Ask God to either clarify or give you fresh insight into what He's equipped you to do mentally and physically—according to what fits you best.

©Word-Strong_2018


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The Joy of Integrity

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When righteous people prosper, a city is glad.

When wicked people die, there are songs of joy.

With the blessing of decent people a city is raised up,

but by the words of wicked people, it is torn down.

A person who despises a neighbor has no sense,

but a person who has understanding keeps quiet.

Whoever gossips gives away secrets,

but whoever is trustworthy in spirit can keep a secret.

A nation will fall when there is no direction,

but with many advisers there is victory. (Proverbs 11:10-14 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 11:1-19 GW)


When I hear people complain about the government, I think of the many places I've traveled to and when we lived overseas for 15 years. I know from experience these complaints are short-sighted with a narrow focus.

It doesn't matter where a person's convictions fall on the political spectrum—we all tend to judge things based on our personal view of things, through the lens of our biases and opinions.

No government is perfect because they're made of people and none of us are perfect. But some governments provide more safety and stability than others. A few afford freedoms and opportunities not commonly found elsewhere.

Living and traveling overseas will likely give a person a clearer perspective on all of this unless their eyes are shut—blinded by arrogance, indifference, and prejudice.

As an observer of history and people, I've gained some perspective over the years. Things aren't nearly as dire as some would have you believe nor as wonderful as others might say. I've learned to be thankful and prayerful.

I'm thankful for the Lord's kindness and provision, for the place and time in history I was born into and live, and thankful for the truth and wisdom God gave me that brings clarity and perspective.

I'm prayerful for my nation and for leaders to have integrity. When people of integrity lead a nation it opens the door for prosperity beyond economics—a prosperity not defined by wealth but more of a sense of favor and well-being.

That's what I think of when I read these verses in Proverbs. I know that people of integrity—people of character—who lead in various levels of government—local, regional, or national—are a blessing to their communities and spheres of influence.

I know there's a great need for people of integrity to be raised up in civic, business, and spiritual arenas. When people of integrity lead—that is, people of "understanding" who are "trustworthy in spirit"— there is joy, gladness, and a prosperity of well-being.

The next time you find yourself complaining about the government or leaders in any other sector of life, take some time to be thankful and pray for integrity instead. It will help adjust your perspective and help you to see God's blessings and help you to become a blessing.

I believe this is why the prophet Daniel had such great favor with the emperors he served under (Daniel 2:46-49; 6:28) and why the apostles Paul and Peter exhort us to pray for those in positions of authority (Rom 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17).

These men knew what it was like to live under tyranny and oppression. They had an eternal perspective and were thankful, prayerful men of God.

Reflection—

We're told that when the righteous—people of integrity—are leaders, it's a blessing to everyone and brings honor to a city, even a nation.

Prayer Focus—

Pray for leaders with integrity to be raised up in all spheres of government and influence—including local and national, civic, business, and spiritual leaders. And as you pray, be thankful!

©Word-Strong_2018


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The Lingering Toll of Laziness

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Like vinegar to the teeth, like smoke to the eyes,

so is the lazy person to those who send him ⌊on a mission⌋. (Proverbs 10:26 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 10:22-32 GW)


Laziness is not a virtue. But the thought of being lazy is appealing when faced with the daily grind of life. In the midst of time demands and the tyranny of the urgent, we may daydream of taking a day to just do nothing.

But laziness as a lifestyle or a lazy approach to life—with no ambition or motivation—has an accumulative effect. Laziness becomes its own treadmill of dread with no jumping off point.

Childhood play is not laziness nor is recreation or vacation for adults. There is a creative and restorative purpose in playing and having fun or taking time for rest. Much is written on this.

But laziness is neither play nor rest. At its best, it's apathy and slothfulness. At its worst, it is destructive and disruptive—for the lazy person and for those impacted by their laziness.

This proverb is quite descriptive—

Like vinegar to the teeth, like smoke to the eyes, so is the lazy person to those who send him ⌊on a mission⌋. (Prov 10:26 GW)

If you've been around a campfire when the wind shifts and smoke blows in your eyes, you know how much it burns and how this lingers after you get out of the path of the smoke.

Vinegar has a distinct and lasting taste. If you've tasted bad wine, certain home remedies, or an oil and vinegar dressing with too much vinegar, you know the taste. Drinking water doesn't wash it all away—something sweet is needed to counter the acrid, bitter, and sour taste left in your mouth.

How is this proverb of any value to our daily life?

Depending on someone who is lazy or does their work in a lazy manner is more than futile or frustrating. It leaves a bitter taste in our mouths that lingers. The burn of being let down by someone has a ripple effect.

It's easy to see this with others but how about ourselves? We only fool ourselves when we make excuses or blame others for our own slackness in carrying out a task.

I've heard complaints from people who work with Christian believers who don't do their jobs well and excuse their poor work performance because they are "witnessing for the Lord." The trouble is, they are a poor example of Christianity and this leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of those who work with them.

Those of us who are people of faith—people who have chosen to follow Jesus—need to show excellence in the workplace, as well as with any task or service we're engaged in at church.

We also need to do whatever we do with a cheerful and gracious attitude. This honors the Lord and won't leave a bitter taste in anyone's mouth or heart.

Reflection—

If you are a person of faith and follower of Jesus, you are to be an honorable example in your workplace or any other place you serve others. Do so with a cheerful and gracious attitude so the Lord is honored and others are blessed by your presence.

Prayer Focus—

Ask God to show you where you might need to improve your effort at work or while serving in some ministry or church role. If the Lord shows you things that could be done better, ask Him to show you how to do make those necessary changes.

©Word-Strong_2018


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