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Joy - The Best Medicine!

By: Woman of Joy-

Jana M. Fraley

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22 ESV

As ranch kids in southern Wyoming, my brothers and I were raised by tough but tender parents. My Dad brought us up to be tough, gritty, and capable of accomplishing the work required on a cattle ranch. Our Mom dealt with us in tender ways that formed our characters and strengthened our faith. Growing up, we faced many hard: life-changing accidents, a roller-coaster of financial stress, and long hard days in the saddle, all of which made us resilient, both regarding our physical ability as well as our faith and trust in the Lord.

It was a tough life but an amazing way to grow up.

My mom may have been tender, but she never coddled the boys and me. Her First Aide Kit included things like homemade electric tape and toilet paper bandages, Campho- Phenique, and Vaseline. When we complained about not feeling well enough to go to school, accomplish our chores, or tackle other ranch work, she answered that if we weren’t bleeding or broken, we were okay. Mom’s favorite cure-all was to send us outside, saying that there wasn’t anything sunshine, fresh air, and dirt couldn’t fix.

But the medicine she most often prescribed for us came straight out of the Bible - a good old-fashioned change in our attitude! Especially during those days when our spirits were down, and we were discouraged. She’d quote from Proverbs 17:22, telling us, “It’s a joyful heart that’s good medicine, but a crushed spirit will dry up your bones!” My mom knew that even more than being outside, taking hold of what God’s Word advised us for facing hard days was the key to a life of harmony, tranquility, and peace.

My mom’s words made me realize at a young age that while we can’t always control our situations, we are always in charge of our heart attitudes! She encouraged us to choose carefully how to respond to hard things we encounter.

We know that the opposite of a joyful heart is a crushed spirit, leaving us to feel as if our bones are drying up. A cheerful heart will benefit who we are and what we do, but a broken spirit will harm our entire bodies. It can be overwhelming and oppressive to consider how to be cheerful in the face of a crushed and broken spirit. But we can count on God’s Word to be true.

If the Bible prescribes this kind of attitude change, we can be sure that God will equip us to face life’s trials with a joyful heart. We might just have to dig a little deeper into the Word to see how this proverb can be lived out in reality when facing tragedy, despair, grief, or pain.

First, we have to see that there are different reasons for a broken and crushed spirit. If we look at the original language, we see that this fractured spirit is different than the one King David spoke of in Psalm 51. This Hebrew word is “šāḇar” and means “to break in pieces.” It’s a broken spirit resulting from sin - and the cure is repentance that brings restoration and life.

But the reference in Proverbs 17:22 is “nāḵā': and speaks of “being broken, stricken, or wounded.” It’s a crushed spirit because of discouragement and depression. When I’ve found myself in those situations - as if my heart just can’t rejoice in the Lord because it’s become hard - and my spirit is skeptical that He’s with me and working. In those times, I struggle to experience joy in the simple and ordinary gifts God gives me.

A cheerful heart isn’t the same as wearing a mask and pretending everything is ok when circumstances are crumbling around us. On the contrary, a merry heart is a result of responding appropriately to challenging situations while possessing a deep and enduring peace that enables us to trust in the Lord. It knows that He is the true source of eternal joy.

"He is the true source of eternal joy."

And it isn’t taking the trials we face in life lightly. We recognize that life is sometimes fraught with sadness and struggle. Ecclesiastes 7:3 tells us, "Sorrow is better than laughter for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.” Adversity reminds us of the brevity of life and that we should live wisely and intentionally; through affliction, we see how those hard things are actually what God uses to refine our character and purify our faith.

As followers of Christ, we’re assured that there is value in suffering and sorrow, and we view it as a refining fire that burns away the dross and leaves us closer to God. “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7). This truth results in a deep and more enduring joy than if we were never to face any trouble in our lives.

Having a joyful heart doesn’t always present itself with a smile, sometimes it’s more a look of determination to continue to walk in confident faith, knowing that our afflictions are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory that is beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Discouragement in our lives results in a crushed spirit. Still, God gives us wisdom about choosing joy; of course, it’s never a guarantee that we’ll never face discouragement, illness, trial, or grief. But we can escape a crushed spirit by remembering that in everything we go through in life, God can use it to refine and strengthen our faith.

The wisdom of my mom still holds true in my life today. The best medicine for when our spirits feel dry and withering, times when we’re discouraged and defeated, is to seek the joy of the Lord . . . and maybe get outside for some fresh air, sunshine, and dirt!


"If the Bible prescribes this kind of attitude change, we can be sure that God will equip us to face life’s trials with a joyful heart. We might just have to dig a little deeper into the Word to see how this proverb can be lived out in reality when facing tragedy, despair, grief, or pain. "

-Jana M. Fraley

Jana MacCarrie Fraley is a Christian writer and speaker, as well as a ranch wife and mom. Her heart’s passion is discipling & encouraging women as they pursue an active and enduring faith in Jesus by seeking God’s truth through His Word, developing a Biblical Worldview, and finding contentment through their hope in Christ. She has collaborated on one devotional book, “Tapestry of Grace,” and has created and written “The Truth Journal, A 30-Day Guided Journal to Combat the Lies of the Enemy With the Truth of God’s Word”. Jana has also written for various other print and online publications, including The Kindred Mom, Living By Design, The Joyful Life Magazine, The Brave Woman Series, The Heartbreak to Strength Series, and Faith Storytellers. She writes with her family’s Wyoming ranch as the backdrop, where she and her husband, Mike, have made a life together raising cattle and their two children, Hannah and Kade

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Thank you so much for taking the time to read March's blog in the Women of JOY series. I pray that it inspires you and empowers you as you seek to find true JOY in Christ alone in any and all circumstances!

The Women of JOY blog series will offer you the pleasure of hearing from a different Woman of Joy on the last Monday of each month.

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