Every occupation has tools of the trade: a hammer for the carpenter, a calculator for the accountant, and pills for the health care provider. While there are a wide variety of treatment options, medications remain a valuable tool for health care professionals.
Yet, since no tool is perfect, one of the most troubling challenges of prescription medications is possible side effects.
Another problem is that many are prohibitively expensive. A third barrier is the serious problem of health illiteracy, which includes the ability to interpret, analyze, and evaluate health information; to clearly articulate health concerns; and to understand medical advice and directions for treatment. And we can’t overlook another major barrier—the fact that many people simply don’t want our tools.
So while we have a vast array of tools, success doesn’t come easily. However, a free medication exists that features no side effects and is never a source of confusion. That prescription is for a “merry heart,” which according to Proverbs 17:22 works just like medicine.
“A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)
Webster’s Dictionary says merry means to be full of gaiety and high spirits, to be festive and jovial. The connotations carry a hint of conditional happiness, though. However, this is not the essence of the word used in Proverbs. The Hebrew word is sameach, which means bless or blessed. So a merry heart is a blessed heart. Blessed literally means happy, fortunate, and blissful.
This state of blessedness is not contingent on our circumstances, nor is it governed by our emotions. It refers to a status God divinely grants to those who are faithful. We choose faithfulness, and in return God makes our hearts merry. So how do we go about getting this prescription filled?
Proverbs 3:13 says, “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding.” This verse speaks of divine wisdom, which is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). This is the wisdom Solomon repeatedly encourages us to embrace in the fourth chapter of Proverbs: the wisdom personified by God. Even Paul refers to Christ as “wisdom from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30). As we pursue divine wisdom, we will reap the benefits of a happy heart.
Proverbs also tells us that being happy, or blessed, depends on how we treat others: “He who has mercy on the poor, happy is he” (Proverbs 14:21). This biblical happiness is diametrically opposed to happiness as defined by worldly values, which emphasize pleasing self.
But true happiness comes from taking on the attributes of Christ, who “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:7, niv). In doing so, He showed us mercy. When we strive to be more like Jesus, we treat others the way He treated us. We show kindness, compassion, and generosity, and place others’ needs above our own. This is how we fill the prescription for a merry heart.
According to Proverbs, a merry heart trusts God: “Whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he” (Proverbs 16:20). The kingdom of God has no place for worry. If a merry heart is like a medicine, then one way to void this divine prescription is through worry.
Indeed, a merry heart is therapeutic. Growing in wisdom, showing mercy, and learning to trust God rather than worrying will lead to blessings. When we comply with the orders of Jesus—the Great Physician—we will reap the rewards He promised.