The twelve year old girl huddled into the bow of their little boat as her father sped against harsh winds back to the marina. The small family had fished longer that day than planned, and failed to return before thunderstorms bore down on them. He thought they had enough time, but the lake, situated in the range of hills, drew storms down like a magnetic funnel turning calm waters turbulent in no time. He pushed the throttle harder, cutting across the lake through cold rain, when without warning came a booming crack – what they struck no one knew. But the shell of the little fiberglass boat broke apart and water rushed in. Ice chest, cushions, pieces of the boat and of their lives littered in the rain as waves splashed into their screams, Mom grasping for the young son, Dad searching for the daughter he couldn’t see. He swam hard desperately hunting for her, eyes open under water, arms pushing hard, heart racing…when he felt her long hair. In a moment he thought how often he’d hollered at her to cut that hair, but a girl of such an age took pride in its length. In this moment, it was all the rope he could find or need, and grabbed as much of it as he could and pulled.
Anxiety in the heart of man weighs it down, says Proverbs 12:25 in the KJV, New KJV saying ‘causes depression’…but a good word makes it glad. Can it really be that one simple word can calm a roiling heart? It doesn’t take a sudden storm or a trip overseas to create anxious thoughts. Try balancing a check book ten more days from another pay day, or uselessly help a sick parent or child through the night while all your remedies fail. Try facing off in a major marriage dispute or a potential job loss, losing a home, moving across the country, or just trying to get home before the babysitter has to leave – and you are a candidate for an anxious mind. It isn’t just twenty-first century life that causes drama, it is all life lived on this planet.
To look at the Hebrew word choice in the verse, D’agah is the word for anxiety, a more rarely used poetic word for fear, dread, or anxious care. Gesenius tells us it was ascribed to the sea, as agitated. If you can picture a dingy bouncing on rough sea waters, lives of the fisherman on board in question, then you have a picture of your mind and heart in trouble. Thoughts bounce you back and forth from security to insecurity, from redemption to rejection, from fear of the worst possible outcome, to another awful conclusion…it seems the human mind can concoct the craziest of possibilities in seconds. One fear after the other badgers your mind, challenges your soul, and puts you to the test as your blood pressure rises. You grip the steering wheel a little more tightly, you snap at the kids a little more harshly, you chop the onion with loud snaps on the cutting board as your eyes tear up on one thing but your mind is on another. Anxious thoughts flood in, determined to sink you.
For ‘depressed’ or weighted, the Hebrew writer penned shakah, made to stoop, to bow, sink, to depress…thus overwhelmed. For a believer in One God, you are called to worship Him only, bow in reverence and humble fear to Him alone, yet thoughts bow you down deeply to regard something or someone else entirely, to the point of dungeoning you (I’m making up that word), creating a sink hole as deep as a pit, where daylight is dim and you feel so far under the consequences you might as well have chains on and be attached to the prison wall. So the short phrase stated memorably in its original language, Dread in the anxious heart drowns it…and there isn’t a one among us who hasn’t had to fight that feeling.
“…ve dabar tov y’samchenah… a good word makes glad.” The word order is important – a good word – singular, not plural – one good word has the power to make that heart glad. Wow! Like the Divine Utterance, “Light!” one good word can create or recreate an environment, illuminate a world, lighten a load, and remove things that go bump in the night. One word of encouragement, a short statement with a smile or thumbs up, a quick “It’s gonna be okay…” can shift a heart of despair.
The story above is true, and I remember the impact I felt in junior high hearing my parents’ friend describe that boating accident and his desperate feeling searching for his daughter as she sunk in the lake. I remember him saying he would never complain about her long hair again, because it was what saved her as he frantically waved arms in the water in search of her. Sometimes that’s all it takes. Just grab hold of one thing and let your heart take you back to the surface. And when you are there, you have a Savior, a Life Guard who will meet you in the middle.
So many divine deposits have been made into our souls… We are a beast of burden laden with tools, spiritual and emotional food, resources, stories, ideas and experiences, that can be unpacked and shared and multiplied for someone else’s journey. Just one word of encouragement can lighten someone else’s load. One word of Scripture can bring a beam of understanding into complex thoughts of the heart. A word brings a world, of hope, of love, of joy…so don’t stop searching the Word when your heart is sinking. Go be the word when someone is drowning.
Let’s determine to be willing carriers of an eternal kind of life preserver. When our own hearts stay buoyant and strong, resistant to the waters that overwhelm, we can be like Yeshua who said to His men in the face of His darkest hour, Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.