There is a healing effect when we are joyful, cheerful people. We read in today's proverb that a joyful heart is good medicine. The word used for "joyful" here is the Hebrew word "sameah" which means, 'to be glad, happy, or joyful.' The idea behind this word is that someone is choosing to rejoice - to consider the good that God has done, rather than the misery and the opportunity to be sad and depressed. That is why we are to seek to maintain a "joyful" heart.
The number of medical studies that reveal to us this principle is nothing short of amazing. Dr. Hans Seyle, former director of the University of Montreal's Institute of Experimental Medicine and Surgery, discovered that when rats are subjected to cold, fatigue, frustration, noise, and other stressful conditions, they develop physical symptoms. Their blood pressure soars, their vital adrenal glands become grossly enlarged, their thymus and lymphatic glands shrink, and they develop peptic ulcers. Research done by the American Medical Association by a Dr Seyle showed that in animals emotional stress causes fats to be drawn from the body, dumped into the blood, and deposited along artery walls. The lethal results are atherosclerosis and coronary-artery disease. According to Dr. Seyle, hatred, frustration, and anxiety are the worst stresses. If you forcefully restrain a normally active rat, deadly frustration results. If you put a mouse and a cat in adjoining cages, the mouse will die of anxiety.
This kind of "broken spirit" will, according to the Lord, dry up the bones. This is a horrible condition because our bones are not only our main source of strength and stability, but they are also the place where our blood is produced. Without our bones we will surely die in short order. What is difficult though is that we cannot go up to someone who is dried up in their affections and tell them to be joyful. That does not help them. They know they are without joy - and can sense the drying up of their vitality. An admontion to stop this is like asking the sun to stop shining simply by requesting it. What they need is a supernatural infusion of joy - or even better an infusing of a joy producing principle that will not go away with the seasons or the up and down existance of being alive.
Where can we obtain joy? That is the million dollar question. Fortunately, we are instructed in where to find joy in the gospels. When Jesus was born the angels made an amazing statement. "But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people, for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11) Joy comes when we are brought into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The true source of a dried up spirit is that we are separated fom God by our sin. The weight of our guilt along with the prospect of judgment and separation from God for all eternity will bring great pain and sorrow.
Jesus, when He came on the scene publically, read the following passage from Isaiah to the people in Gallilee. "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting." (Isaiah 61:1-3)
For those afflicted with sorrow, sighing, sadness, and a broken spirit there is wonderful news. Jesus came to bring great joy. He came to give us the oil of joy poured upon our heads rather than a spirit of fainting. The cause of the broken spirit is our separation from God - and its remedy is turning to God through Jesus Christ. That is how we can have our sorrow turned to laughter and our gloom to everlasting joy.
Joy is not just laughter. Some use this verse to promote Christian comediens. But I will say that although I enjoy their humor greatly - they are not the source of bringing men from sorrow to joy. Solomon also wrote Ecclesastes 2 which says, "I said to myself, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself." And behold, it too was futility. I said of laughter, "It is madness," and of pleasure, "What does it accomplish?" (Ecclesiastes 2:1-2) So just getting someone to laugh will not solve the cause of a broken heart. David said it best when in the midst of his confession of sin he said, "Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation!" Joy comes from knowing God - knowing your sins are forgiven - knowing that you will stand in the judgment. When this aspect of our lives is not right - nothing will be.
The way to a joyful heart is by knowing God through Jesus Christ, crucified, buried, and resurrected from the dead. It is by coming to God in repentance and faith and turning from a self-centered life to one centered in Him. God offers such a gift freely to us - therefore joy is truly available to men. The problem is that they turn to other things than Him and His gospel to obtain it.