Weekends with the Word is continuing a trek through the Wisdom literature of the Bible. This time, I’m back in the standard canon and sifting through Proverbs. I’m still looking for words of assurance and comfort for health, joy of living, and forgiveness. I love how Proverbs, like Sirach, is a collection of thoughts on what makes life best.
The fun thing about Proverbs is how much of it is already familiar to us, because of the sayings that have been passed down by generations. You might recognize some tidbits as things your grandparents have said.
(Side note to this post: Remember “spare the rod, spoil the child”? While that one did advocate physically beating children into submission in its time, the complete saying is “Those who spare the rod hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to discipline them.” ~Pro. 13.24. It implied that loving parents disciplined children by teaching them fear of, or respect for, authority of parents in particular; bad parents despised their children and allowed them to run amuck without discipline, which would make them a burden on everyone. Looking at it today, we should focus on the aspect of teaching our children discipline. Proverbs 29.17 is the better statement, it says, “Discipline your children and they will give you rest; they will give delight to your heart.” So a good parent, is one who disciplines a child in order to teach the child the rules of living as an obedient citizen, both at home and outside the home. Children who know, understand, and follow expectations as they have been taught, make it much easier for parents to go about life without excessive worry, or frustration and embarrassment. I do not advocate corporal punishment, but I do advocate loving, consistent gentle, yet firm, instruction.)
Proverbs is so very rich in gleanings, so I’ll cover chapters 1-15 this week, and then 16-31 next week. As always, emphases mine and all quotes are from HarperCollins NRSV Study Bible.
My child, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and abundant welfare they will give you.~Pro. 3.1-2
My take: Those who live according to God’s word will live long and well. (Can’t you just hear Spock saying, “Live long and prosper.”!)
Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be a healing for your flesh and a refreshment for your body.~Pro. 3.7-8
My take: Don’t be a know-it-all! Consult the experts-the bona fide leaders in the field; then use their guidance to follow your understanding and your body will be better off. You can’t take care of your health by yourself, but you can be an important part of your own medical team by getting educated.
Do not be afraid of sudden panic, or of the storm that strikes the wicked; for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.~Pro. 3.25-26
My take: When dealing with an illness (or another threatening life event), turn to God when you start to feel overwhelmed and frightened. Place your trust on God and you will find assurance and confidence. This was hard to do when I was coming off a course of steroids, but knowledge and perseverance made all the difference.
Keep hold of instruction; do not let her go; guard her, for she is your life.~Pro. 4:13
My take: Again, as a patient, knowing what the instructions were and asking questions when it wasn’t clear, made me more confident in taking care of myself during treatment and recovery. It gave me life (and still does) to know that I am doing the things that improve my health and physical state (diet, exercise, rest, relationships and spiritual health).
My child be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.~Pro. 4.20-22
My take: This reminds me how comforting certain words and associations are when I’m down. In the recent months I have found a lot of this truth confirmed in reading When in Doubt, Sing by Jane Redmont. The words of certain prayers and familiar scriptures are like good friends coming to visit; they just make you feel better all over, even if you cry a little bit.
Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.~Proverbs 10.12
My take: It all goes back to the thought that ‘hurt people, hurt people.’ If you act from hate, anger and resistance you’ll get the same in return. But if you act from love, that is what you will receive. In addition, we are much more forgiving with those we love.
Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but one who rejects a rebuke goes astray. ~Proverbs 10.17
My take: This, for me, goes back to the idea that only I know what is right and best; which isn’t true. Doing what you are told, by someone you trust who has the right to have authority over you, is life-giving. God definitely holds that authority; as do my trusted doctors. And I have to be willing to be told I’m wrong and learn from it, otherwise, I pay the negative consequences.
Those who are kind reward themselves, but the cruel do themselves harm. ~Pro. 11.17
My take: This one just about screams at me to take good care of myself, because if I am constantly putting myself down, blaming and berating, I’m not doing anything to help me be healthy. Having compassion for the self means we do our best to treat ourselves with kindness and grace; an occasional treat is a good thing, too!
Some give freely, yet grow all the richer; others withhold what is due, and only suffer want. A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water. Pro. 11.24-25
My take: The most generous, giving people are the most blessed because they share their blessings. Those who withhold, hoarding for fear that they will have nothing, suffer constantly and end up living an impoverished life. This lesson is repeated in the gospels: the measure you give, will be the measure you get. (See Matt. 7.2, Mark 4.24, Luke 6.38)
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge; but those who hate to be rebuked are stupid. ~Pro. 12.1
My take: I thought I hated discipline, until I realised how much I appreciate, and depend on, constructive criticism and thoughtful, gentle correction. And I’ve always loved having and gaining knowledge, but it helps to have discipline when pursuing and using knowledge. And I get that nobody likes to be corrected when they think they know something, but those who are open to correction gain knowledge exponentially.
Anxiety weighs down the human heart, but a good word cheers it up. ~Pro. 12.25
My take: This one doesn’t need any explanation!
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. ~Pro. 13.12
My take: This would make an awesome motto for the Make a Wish Foundation, don’t you think? When something you hope for, dream of, wish for, is put off, it does make you melancholy. But when one of those dreams is fulfilled, life is good all over! Making progress in treatment is the same way.
A tranquil mind gives life to the flesh, but passion makes the bones rot. ~Pro. 14.30
My take: Peace of mind and peace of heart are essential to a healthful life. In this use, ‘passion’ refers to suffering. If your mind is not troubled, then good health can flourish. But if your mind/spirit is suffering, your health will suffer too.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. ~Pro. 15.1
My take: Another case of ‘you get what you give’. And likewise, the one who keeps a cool head and gives a calm response, has the power to diffuse a situation.
A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.~Pro. 15.13
My take: Our faces are the mirrors of our souls. Feeling troubled? It will show on your face. Feeling happy, likewise. And if your heart is in sorrow, you will not have energy to do anything.
All the days of the poor are hard, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast. ~Pro. 15.15
My take: Those who find happiness with what they have, always feel satisfied. How many times have you heard someone say, “We may have been poor and working hard, but we were always happy and had just what we needed.”?
Without counsel, plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed. ~Pro. 15.22
My take: Ok, this one makes me think of my medical team. Before they treated my tumor, all of my doctors got together and discussed the different approaches they could take. They decided that IMRT was my best option, so the Radiation team discussed all the angles, doses, etc. to create a treatment plan. Once the plan was put into action, there was an other team of technicians who made sure all the equipment was set and functioning properly, not just the one who administered the daily treatments. Because of their attention to detail, everything went according to plan.
The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshes the body. ~Pro. 15.30
My take: I consulted the footnotes on this one. “The light of the eyes” refers to the messenger who brings the good news. And “refreshes the body” is an idiomatic translation of words that mean “makes fat the bones”. I’m always looking for good news about my health, so in this one “the light of the eyes” can be both me and the doctors. Me telling them about how I feel well, and them in confirming through examination that my feeling accurately reflects my condition. And having a refreshed body, or fattened bones, makes me think of how illness takes so much out of you, while healing puts the health back on.
Whew! That’s a lot to ponder! And we’re only halfway through Proverbs. Next week, I’ll cover the remainder.