By David Faust
High health care costs are nothing new. Jesus encountered a woman who “had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse” (Mark 5:26). My son-in-law is a caring, hard-working MD, but he knows what every doctor knows: In some cases, no amount of money or professional care can fix a person’s health. It’s interesting that Luke, a physician himself, doesn’t mention the woman’s negative experience with doctors in his version of the same encounter (Luke 8:43-48). But the Gospel writers all agree: Jesus instantly healed a very sick woman that medical science and mounds of money couldn’t help.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that health care costs more than $8,000 per year for the average American, but here’s a free prescription for a healthier life: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).
A Cheerful Heart
Peace of mind leads to a healthier body. Researcher Julia Boehm of the Harvard School of Public Health reviewed dozens of studies examining the effects of a positive mental attitude on cardiac health. Her findings indicate that optimistic people cut their risk of a heart attack in half when compared to those who are least optimistic. A positive sense of well-being contributes to healthier blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels. What the Bible calls “a cheerful heart” ranks right up there with eating right, exercising often, and getting adequate rest.
It’s a sign of a cheerful heart when someone appreciates simple blessings. “Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife” (Proverbs 17:1). Don’t you enjoy a simple meal in a peaceful environment more than a fancy feast surrounded by conflict and stress? Strife messes with your digestion and makes it difficult to enjoy your food.
Watch a woman playing happily with her grandkids and you’ll see a cheerful heart at work. “Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children” (v. 6).
You can also see a cheerful heart at work when two friends settle a disagreement. “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out” (v. 14). Unresolved conflict takes a heavy toll on body and soul. “Whoever loves a quarrel loves sin; whoever builds a high gate invites destruction” (v. 19).
A Crushed Spirit
While a cheerful heart is a great blessing, “a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (v. 22). It withers the soul and weakens our zest for life, as if our very bones have dried up. A crushed spirit can afflict a whole group of people—a discouraged church, a low-morale workplace, a sports team accustomed to losing, a family that seems too dysfunctional to fix.
When all seems hopeless and our spirits feel crushed, there’s only one place to turn. It’s the same place a very sick woman turned after every other route led to a dead end. She found healing—and a cheerful heart—when she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment.
The Great Physician is available when we reach out to him in faith. Amazingly, he still makes house calls.
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
THELOOKOUT’s Bible Reading Plan for August 26, 2012
Esther 5, 6
Esther 7, 8
Esther 9, 10
Isaiah 1, 2