“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
Explanation and Commentary of Proverbs 17:22
There is a mysterious power that mood has over physical health. When one has a “crushed spirit” it cannot but help hurting the body. Unlike Platonic heresies that separate the body from the soul, the Christian is created soul and body by God. Life is holistic and the body and soul are interlinked. Indeed, even in the New Heavens and Earth at the end of the age, our physical bodies will rise and be transformed into a new body that is Spiritual, but also physical.
So there should be no misunderstanding that says the soul is all good, and the body is all evil. This misleads Christians into thinking that they will be a blessed disembodied spirit for eternity. This is untrue. Jesus came in bodily form to sanctify the physical realm by his perfect life and the physical shedding of his actual blood for the forgiveness of sins.
Practically, it means that what is going on spiritually/emotionally affects the body, and what is going on physically in the body affects the spirit. An approach to living a godly life should include consideration of both physical and spiritual health. Even when one is sick, a cheerful heart that is focused on the truth can lead to a speedier recovery. A crushed spirit can lead to sickness.
Breaking Down the Key Parts of Proverbs 17:22
#1 “A cheerful heart…”
Joy is the inheritance of the Christian. While it is often true that the most mature of believers can fall into some sort of depressed state, more often than most realize, it is because they are not in complete consciousness of the reality of their life in Christ. This is not a faked joy or a momentary glee at circumstances, but a deep knowing and abiding, trusting in the sovereign God of the universe on whom we have cast or burdens (Ps 55:22).
#2 “…is good medicine,”
The truth believed and lived will have a positive effect on the physical health of a person. Science has proven this to be true (as it always eventually does with the Bible). Patients who simply thought positive thoughts about their illness recovered at a much faster rate than those who did not. God bless those medical workers who bring cheer into the hospital environment. Their gift along with their expertise has saved many lives.
#3 “but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
Alternatively, one who is despondent will often develop an illness. Many have died prematurely as a result of living a lie and in contradiction with what they are supposed to believe. The Bible has encouragement for any hard situation a believer could find him or herself in. To hold by faith to the truth will protect the body as well as anything. It should be noted that in a fallen world, even the most cheerful of people can still develop an illness. Our ultimate hope is in Jesus Christ, the great healer who will come bringing an end to all sickness and cheerlessness (Rev 21:4).
Expert Overview of Proverbs
Biblical Translations of Proverbs 17:22
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.
A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.