Although the daily grind of a troubled heart is common, we often think we’re the only one struggling with discouragement, anxiety, doubt, and disappointment. Not so! It’s all around us. As I described earlier, a troubled heart beats within every chest, and the kinds of trouble are numerous. I find no less than six specified in Solomon’s writings. We’ll discuss three today and three [Friday].
- A deceitful heart
Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil. (12:20)
The term rendered “deceitful” describes someone who misleads another such that he or she acts based on a false idea. This deception can be deliberate or simply the result of one fool guiding another. People who “devise evil” rarely think of themselves as dishonest or corrupt. They use deception—starting with self-deception—to rationalize their evil deeds as good, often using an “end-justifies-the-means” argument.
A communist sympathizer once tried that approach with Romanian writer Panait Istrati. Admitting that Stalin’s Russia was, indeed, guilty of oppression and persecution, he said, “One cannot make an omelet without breaking eggs.” Panait exclaimed, “All right, I can see the broken eggs. Where’s this omelet of yours?"1
Beware the tendency to rationalize behavior when times get tough—and always keep people who “devise evil” out of your inner circle.
- A heavy heart
Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down,
But a good word makes it glad. (12:25)
The Hebrew verb from which “anxiety” is translated literally means “care, fear, sorrow, heaviness.” This describes the inner turmoil of one deeply caring about something he or she can do nothing to change. In Hebrew, the word heavy is the same as in English: it denotes extreme seriousness.
Earlier, we discussed how the wise counsel of a “counselor of peace” brings joy. A kind, empathetic word of encouragement also has the power to lift the burden of anxiety from the shoulders of someone in the midst of a serious crisis. Uplifting words may not solve the problem, but the temporary relief helps the discouraged one endure the struggle longer.
- A sorrowful heart
Even in laughter the heart may be in pain,
And the end of joy may be grief. (14:13)
We have a saying in the southern regions of the United States: “Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from cryin’.” Sometimes the losses in life bring you down to the basics, and it takes all your strength to make it through the day. Like sunlight peeking through the leaves of a dense forest canopy, laughter offers a brief respite from long days of sorrow. During these times, we need someone to remind us that this too shall pass.
- Quoted in Victor Serge, Memoirs of a Revolutionary, trans. Peter Sedgwick (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2002), 278.
From Living the Proverbs by Charles R. Swindoll, copyright © 2012. Reprinted by permission of Worthy Inspired., an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.