The Best Medicine
As a woman was finishing an exam in the Doctor’s office, the Doctor began to explain her new prescription and how to take the pills. He tells her, In the morning take the green pill with a large glass of water when you get up. Take the blue pill with a large glass of water after lunch. Then just before you go to bed, take the red pill with another large glass of water. The woman was visibly nervous and asked the Doctor, Exactly what is my problem, Doctor? The doctor replies, You’re not drinking enough water.
It has never been that easy when I go see the Doctor. I have reached the age that every visit to the Doctor means a new prescription. Some of you here this morning know what I am talking about. But before I complain too much I always stop and think about folks who have to take a handful of pills for breakfast every morning. Ron Detinger writes that he just got a prescription from his doctor and the instructions read: Take one every time you can afford it, so it could be worse.
Over the last two weeks our study of Proverbs had us focusing on our speech. Now, I won’t embarrass anyone, but someone asked if this week we could talk about something that is a little easier to hear. I thought that would be a great idea so today I thought we would see what Solomon had to say about our health and well being. The text that was read for us this morning comes from Proverbs 17 and I wanted to read it from a new translation The Bible For Everyone: A rejoicing heart enhances healing, but a crushed spirit dries up bones.
Have you ever heard of Norman Cousins? In 1964 it was discovered that the connective tissue in his spine was deteriorating. His doctors told him that his chance of survival was approximately 1 in 500. Faced with the prospect of his death Mr. Cousins decided that he would take Solomon at his word, and if he was going to die, at least he would die happy. So he checked himself out the hospital and into a hotel room. He had a movie projector and a bunch of Abbot and Castillo and Marx Brother’s movies brought into the room with him. He wrote that he laughed so hard that is body would relax and he could get a few hours of sleep. When his pain returned he simply turn the projector back on and laugh until he could get back to sleep. After a few weeks of watching one movie after another, he was able to go back to work. Every day he continued to watch movies, and the more he watched the more he laughed. The more he laughed, the better he felt. He ended up beating the odds and soon the doctors could find no evidence of his disease. Over the next 10 years Mr. Cousins served on the staff of the UCLA School of Medicine and did research on how our emotions can effect and control our health and well being. He discovered that when you control your mind set, you can alter your temperature, your blood pressure and your blood chemistry in a matter of minutes.
It’s a remarkable true story. And while I don’t believe that hanging out in a comedy club will cure cancer; a rejoicing heart does enhance your bodies ability to heal itself and that is good medicine. But the opposite is true as well, if you’re not joyful, if your spirit is broken, then it dries up your bones. You become that old, tired person that no one wants to be around.
I don’t imagine that anyone of us thought we would grow up to be a sour or bitter person. I know that most of us don’t enjoy spending time with people who always walk around with a frown on their face and constantly complaining. Yet everyone of us know at least one person who only sees the bad things in the world, who are thoroughly convinced that everything is going to fall apart. All of us know someone who has dried up bones. Being bitter and sour is not a part of the abundant life that Jesus promises those who love Him. You cannot rejoice in the Lord while you are complaining and griping about everyone and everything.
Now only are we are attracted to people who have joy in their lives; we are called to live in joy as well. I am not saying we need to act like everything is fine every moment of the day. We are broken people living in a broken world. But you have been called to be a messenger of the good news of Christ. And that good news should cause joy. So let me offer you a few suggestions of some things we need to do if we are going to have a cheerful heart.
First we need to decide to Lighten Up.
John Ortberg describes a member of his congregation he calls Hank: Hank was a cranky guy. He did not smile easily, and when he did, the smile often came at someone else’s expense. He had a knack for discovering islands of bad news in oceans of happiness, his native tongue was complaining. Orteberg said that once he asked him, Hank, are you happy? Hank paused to reflect, then grunted without smiling, Yeah. Orterberg writes that somehow Hank’s face never seemed to get the news.
I’ve met a lot of Hanks in church. Many of them have been lifelong church members or worse they are preachers. Serious people who don’t see much in life to smile about or laugh about. They are unsmiling, hyper-holy saints who take everything way too seriously. Solomon says they need a good dose of cheerful heart, they need to lighten up.
I read a great tweet last week by the parody account ChurchDadJokes. They wrote, If you lose one sense another sense may be enhanced. That's why people with no sense of humor get an increased sense of self importance. Which is absolutely true, people with no sense of humor are difficult to be around, to spend time with. They are emotional vampires, sucking the life out of those around them.
We need to remember that everything we encounter today is not a life or death situation. I mean I get the fact that everything has consequences, but not everything has dire consequences. We don’t have to be serious and grim all the time. Jesus understood what it meant to live in joy and lighten up. I know that because the Pharisees accused Him of not being serious enough. In Matthew 11 Jesus repeats what they have been saying about Him: John came fasting and they called him crazy. I came feasting and they called me a lush, a friend of the riff-raff. (18-19)
I know that we live in a broken community. 5 Minutes of the nightly news is enough to hear story after story of the evil, suffering, and death that surround us. It makes it difficult to be optimistic. Solomon’s counsel here to lighten up doesn’t mean you never weep or grieve; after all he will write in his next book that there is a time to weep and mourn but it also says that there is a time to rejoice and dance. (Ecclesiastes 3:4)
If we are living in the hope of the resurrection then we will have eyes that see everything the way God sees it. God does not just see the evil, the suffering, the death; He sees how He is working in the suffering and evil to bring good out of them. God doesn’t just see His Son dying on the Cross, He sees Christ’s resurrection. He doesn’t just see the death of His saints; He sees them welcomed into Heaven, where they will never die again.
There is no such thing as a pessimistic Christian, true faith won’t allow it. Real faith is an understanding that God has the ability to redeem any situation. Faith in God involves a positive attitude about everything because you really believe that God will win in the end. Those who trust God, trust that He will redeem the brokenness for His purpose as we strive to live in His purpose.
But we need to do more than just lighten up. We have got to allow ourselves to smile and laugh as much as possible.
A merry heart is a heart with a smile, a heart that loves to laugh. This verse is telling us that it’s healthy to laugh; because it’s part of God’s Word I want to suggest to you that it is holy to laugh.
Now I know that not all laughter is holy. The Bible does warn us about humor that is harmful when it warns us not to allow ourselves to fall into filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting. (Ephesians 5:4) There are some things we just cannot laugh at or about. But at the same time, I think it’s about time that we reminded the world that laughter is not evil or sinful, it is a gift of God, a reflection of God’s very nature. The Psalmist writes that God laughs. In Psalm 2:4 we read “He who sits in the heavens laughs”
We live in a world that is a pretty funny place. There is so much in creation that is funny, but in our political climate we are afraid to be anything other than serious and stern. You are attracted to people who have joy in their hearts and smiles on their faces. God created us in His image, and He laughs. Laughter is good for you, it’s better than medicine.
The Great Physician’s prescription involves you learning to lighten up, to keep a positive perspective on life, to smile and laugh as much as possible. That’s a healthy thing to do, but also a holy thing to do. 15 different times in his letter to the church in Phillipi, Paul reminds, commands, instructs the Christians to rejoice or describes his own joy. Laughter and joy is a defining characteristic of a Child of God. We are called to rejoice, we are called to be glad, we are called to be happy. We are called to laugh.
There was a lady who had a problem with dry hair. One day she read in a magazine that olive oil could help. So she treated her hair with the oil before going to bed. After a few minutes she began to worry that she had an odor, so she took a shower and washed the oil out of her hair, but she was convinced she could still it. So as she got into bead that night she leaned over to her husband and asked, Do I smell like olive oil? He said No, do I smell like Popeye? That’s my favorite joke.
Finally we have got to make sure that we Don’t get weighed down.
Hebrews 12:1 says let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. In our text this morning Solomon says that we are weighed down by a broken or crushed spirit. The picture here is of a person who is so loaded down by the pressures and pains of life they are crushed by the weight. A crushed spirit is a heart that is weighed down with worry, sorrow, guilt, or discouragement. This spirit is not just killing us individually, it is killing God’s church.
If we are going to be the kingdom we were created to be, if we are going to model love in the model city we must throw away some of the weight that is holding us back. You cannot get through life without bearing some burdens of responsibility and concern. But there are a lot of weights which you and I were never meant to carry. Let me briefly mention some of the most common.
First we have to quit carrying Guilt.
All of us have done things we’re ashamed of, things we wish we had done differently, or not done at all. It’s one of the easiest things in the world to look back and dwell on what we should have done, or what we ought to have said. But the fact is, you cannot change the past.
If guilt having its way with you then you need to hear the promise from Isaiah 1:18: You are stained red with sin, but I will wash you as clean as snow. Although your stains are deep red, you will be as white as wool. God can do what no one else can. He can wash every sin from your soul. He never means for any of us to be crushed under the weight of our past sins, mistakes, or failures. So repent of your sins and stop carrying guilt.
Next we need to get rid of Worry.
There are legitimate concerns in life, things that you need to be prepared for. But when that concern crosses the line into worry, then you are carrying a load God never intended for you to carry.
Luke 12:22-26 Then He said to His disciples, This is why I keep telling you not to worry about anything in life—about what you’ll eat, about how you’ll clothe your body. Life is more than food, and the body is more than fancy clothes. Think about those crows flying over there: do they plant and harvest crops? Do they own silos or barns? Look at them fly. It looks like God is taking pretty good care of them, doesn’t it? Remember that you are more precious to God than birds! Which one of you can add a single hour to your life or 18 inches to your height by worrying really hard? If worry can’t change anything, why do you do it so much?
Jesus isn’t saying don’t work for a living, or that you have no responsibility to care for you and your family’s needs. What He is saying is that we must do the best we can and leave the rest in GOd’s hands. Don’t spend your time focusing on what might or might not happen; don’t dwell on all the catastrophes that could happen. Don’t carry around the weight of worry. Trust that God will work everything out when we get to our eternal home with Him.
And we need to Let go of Grief.
Every heart in this world is eventually broken. Your heart may break over lost love, loneliness, sickness, or death. Grief is part of what it means to live in a fallen world. It’s not wrong to weep when we hurt, or grieve over losses. But you can’t stay there. You cannot carry the weight of grief all your life, or it will crush you. We have already noticed that the Bible says there is a time to weep, but it also says there is a time to laugh and dance. At some point you have to get past the hurt, past the pain, and keep living. Don’t get crushed by the weight of grief.
We were not created to carry around guilt, worry, and grief. We were created to have an abundant life that is full of God’s joy and delight. When we try to carry burdens that are too heavy we become crushed and beaten down and Solomon says that crushed spirit will dry up your bones.
That’s why we need to give our burdens to Christ, His shoulders are big enough to bear the load we cannot. We read in Isaiah 53:4 that it was our weaknesses Jesus carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. When Jesus hung on the Cross, when He rose from the grave, He took our guilt away. There’s no need for you to carry the guilt he has already taken away. Since Jesus loved you enough to die for you, He surely loves you enough to take care of you.
This morning Jesus still calls out to us, Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. He will comfort your heart and dry your tears. Let Him bear you, let Him take your burdens that are weighing you down and causing you grief. This morning what burdens are you carrying? Whatever it is, you don’t have to be crushed by them. You can bring them to the Lord right now, and He will give you rest and peace. He can fill the guilty, worried, grieving heart with laugher and joy once again.