The body and spirit are interconnected. If one suffers, so does other. When we experience disappointment, we immediately feel tired and un-motivated. At other times we hear news of horrible loss, and the pain of that loss digs deep into our bones. Spiritual pain seeps into marrow, and the body aches.
The opposite is also true. Bodily harm drains the spirit of vitality. Anyone who has lost the use of their limbs will experience a dark night of the soul. The loss of a part of the body is a loss of a part of the soul.
The ancients made a stark separation between the body and soul, or spirit. The former is bad, something to be overcome. The latter is better, a more virtuous part of humanity. This led to kind of dualism that damaged the spirit. Although an embodied activity, sleep is spiritual. Getting a good night of sleep is a spiritual venture. Lacking sleep ignites the spirit into bitterness and lethargy.
And these obvious-after-spoken truths have been observed for thousands of years. One of the oldest sages in history has laid down a path of spiritual wisdom, which is described as medicine for body. Wisdom is medicine for a physical body, and the Proverbs prescribe forms of medicinal wisdom for a number of ails.
Wisdom Prescribes Fear of The Lord to Heal the Body
Solomon sagely avers that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 1:7). When someone fears the Lord, then “it heals your belly and nourishes your bones” (Prov 3:8). The word “belly” refers to the “navel.” When we make an unwise choose, a foolish decision, we feel sick to our stomach. Our gut is in pain. The opposite is also the case. Making a wise decision heals our gut pain.
Wise words “are life” and “is healing for all flesh” (Prov 4:22). Divine wisdom constitutes what it means to live. It is life, and it heals our flesh. As a race, humans seek to alleviate pain through drugs, medicinal or otherwise. These do help. But if we limit ourselves to what we can ingest or inject into our bodies, we will lack the proper medicine to heal ills suited for the medicinal wisdom.
This is why wisdom is one of the most important and neglected medicines of all. Few see wisdom as effective as antibiotics are to human health. But for certain ills it is. And for all the emphasis on natural healing in our days, I have yet to see one natural healer advocate wisdom as a means for overcoming illness.
Wisdom Prescribes Kind Words to Heal the Body
Words can wound or they can heal. The phrase is not a nicety, which we all know but is not really true. It is in fact a biological truth that words can heal. An unkind word may strike the soul of a listener, driving that person into a state of depression. The speaker of the unkind word may devolve into greater sourness, causing stresses and anxieties, which the speaker would otherwise not have. Those anxieties could lead to heart disease and heart disease could lead to melancholy over the body’s frailty and so on.
Proverbs 16:24 asserts: “Kind words are a cache of honey, sweetness to the throat and healing for the bones.” The word for throat can just as easily mean “person.” The meaning might then be that kind words heal the whole person—even up to an innermost part, the very bones that hold the person together. Whatever the precise meaning, kind words heal.
In Proverbs 16:24 these are not kind words a person hears but kind words a person speaks, which seems clear because Proverbs 16:23 instructs a person in how to speak. What Proverbs 16:24 communicates then is that practicing kindness somehow brings health and sweetness to a person.
It is worth reflecting on what “kind words” are. In Proverbs, the word for “kind” is naim or pleasantness, kindness, and loveliness. It generally means a good and lovely thing. I might suggest that “beautiful” may be the most appropriate term here. So that kind words are “beautiful words.”
Locating wise words as beautiful words results in the conclusion that our words are not structures to push data to others. Rather, we should coat our words with a ring of pleasantness, of beauty. A beautiful thing is an intrinsically good thing. Goodness and beauty go side-by-side. To say something in an ugly way means we say something in a bad way.
This is getting off-topic. The point here is that beautiful and pleasant words bring sweetness and healing to a person. There is a sense in which words have a snowball effect. If we speak a grumpy word, then we inflame our grumpiness. Soon people associate a person who speaks grumpy words as a grump. Once the reputation is set, it is almost embarrassing to speak a sweet, beautiful word.
When someone is known to be kind and pleasant in speech, it is that much easier to meet expectations, if, of course, one desires to do so. The effect of kindness is often kindness from others, which has the result of emotional contentedness. Additionally, kindness also leads to feelings of gratification because it is intrinsically good to do good to others. Both spirit and body thus heal themselves of many an ill by speaking beautiful words.
Wisdom Prescribes Joy as Good Medicine
Laughter is medicine for the soul, but joy heals the body. Studies have shown how one’s perspective on life can affect their physical well-being. Livescience reports: “Researchers found that people who enjoy life tend to maintain better physical function than those who don’t in daily activities as they age.” Studies hint strongly that enjoyment of life or happiness lead to a healthier life.
This was obvious to the ancient sages. Proverbs 17:22 records: “A joyful heart does good to the soul, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” I suppose everyone knows what it means to have “dried up bones.” It is the feeling that one gets when one is absolutely defeated. When life hands you durians—a fruit full of maleficent intentions, then your bones shrivel.
In contrast, joy uplifts the soul. It makes what previously seemed impossible, possible. It makes hardships become easy and fulfilling. Joy is a key and integral part of life. Without it, you may find yourself curled up in bed, covers over your eyes, and in dread of what is to come.
Dread is something that those with anxiety know well. It is absolute feeling of defeat that comes when confronted with life. It is, as it were, a complete dissection of one’s bones. The Proverbs know the cure for this ill. Solomon calls it joy. Wise joy beats a crushed spirit. It heals the body and the soul.
So while laughter may be good for the soul, joy heals both body and soul. Pursue joy, although you should always laugh in the pursuit of it. No real joy can be serious for too long.