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  • Dr. Stieglitz

Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 17:22

"A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones"

This proverb is more than a statement of fact; it is a suggestion that we develop a joyful heart. This is important to say because most people believe that joy is a reaction to what has happened or is happening to them instead of a destination that they can push towards and then enjoy the joy of that place.

The word joyful is the Hebrew word sameah, which means that which gladdens the heart. Scripture states that many things can gladden the heart – ointment, perfume, a wise son, a kind word, meeting a loved one, God's law, an increase in righteousness. But the most frequently cited thing that increases one's joy is the Lord's presence and His salvation.

I have cited in others of these insights on Proverbs that joy is the result of depth and quality of relationships. This is the place that one should aim at to have a joyful heart: depth and quality of relationship with God, spouse, children, parents, colleagues, church folks, friends, community people, and neighbors.

The word heart is the Hebrew word leb, which is heart but more commonly refers to the immaterial part of man which we could call the soul – the mind, will, and emotions – and even including the spirit.

The phrase is good medicineis the Hebrew phrase is good healing. In other words, the amount of joy in one's soul operates like a healer to your physical body. This is seen all the time when one loses a loved one or a close relationship breaks up. There is a physical toll that takes place.

One of the things that God is asking us is: "Do you want to get better physically? Then fix the relationships of your life." I am amazed at the people that I meet who come with relationship trouble. When I ask them what could they do that would fix this relationship and make it work, they know but they don't want to do it until the other person changes first or some other nonsense. Unless what the other person is doing to you is immoral or illegal or exceptionally violent, then you should work on making every relationship as good as you can. It will heal your life. Do not allow – as far as it depends upon you – to have a relationship that is broken.

but a broken spirit dries up the bones

The word broken is the word naka, which means stricken, broken. It is clear from this proverb that Solomon has observed, and God wants us to understand, that there is a connection between the condition of your immaterial being and the condition of your material being. Notice that the material being follows the immaterial, not the other way around.

I am all for physical exercise and eating right and getting a good night’s sleep; but if one really wants to improve their life, they will improve the condition of their soul and spirit. Spend as much – if not more – time developing your soul and spirit.

How does one develop a life that has a rich soul life which is not as vulnerable to a completely broken spirit? Answer: Realize that there are nine relationships in life: God, self, marriage, work, church, money, society, and friends. If these relationships are strong and vibrant, then you will have a joyful life. If anyone of these is having difficulty, you can rely on the energy from the others to get you through the rough spot. Deepen your understanding biblically of how to actually develop better relationships in each one of these arenas. You will not be sorry. In fact, you will have a joyful soul life, and it will be a healing balm in your life.

Until tomorrow,

Gil Stieglitz

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