From time to time we all struggle with anxiety. By anxiety I don’t just mean the clinical diagnosis as defined by the American Medical Association. I mean the everyday anxiety, the fears and cares that give us heavy hearts when things are not going as we had hoped. We all suffer from this kind of anxiety. Even the Apostle Paul, who wrote “Be anxious for nothing” in Philippians chapter four, refers to his own anxiety in that very letter! In chapter two he wrote to the church in Philippi that he needed to send their messenger Epaphroditus back to them, in part so that Paul “might have less anxiety.”
Too often the world’s wisdom, and even much of the church’s advice, focuses on the anxious person and what they can do to resolve their anxiety. The Bible’s treatment for anxiety involves more than just the anxious person doing the right things, saying the right prayers, following a proper diet and getting the right amount of sleep. It also involves friends. Proverbs 12:25 says, “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”
Do you ever find yourself sitting with a friend over a cup of coffee at Starbucks, listening to their troubles, and wishing you knew just what to say or do? I have been in conversations like that many, many times. And as often as not, I don’t have just the right thing to say that will make the cause of their anxiety disappear. But even when you or I are in that situation and simply can’t resolve our friend’s troubles all at once – or even at all, we can give a kind word!
The word “kind” in Hebrew is a word you probably know. It is “tov” – perhaps you have heard it used in “Mazel tov.” Tov can mean good, beautiful, proper, right, jubilant, gracious, festive… you get the idea! In this proverb, the “kind word” doesn’t resolve whatever problem our anxious friend has, but it does cheer him up. As we have opportunity, let’s be good friends to one another – and offer kind words as often as our friends have heavy hearts. “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life.” says Proverbs 15:4. The Old Testament knows no higher comparison. As we seek to “add to godliness, brotherly kindness,” (2 Peter 1:7), let’s ask God to give us the grace and wisdom to know when to simply offer a kind word to an anxious soul. Who knows how God might use a moment of cheer in a difficult situation?