Anxiety weighs down the heart,
but a kind word cheers it up. — Proverbs 12:25
I once heard about a wise teacher who would often stop his class in the middle of teaching and ask, “Is anything wrong right now, at this very moment?” The answer, invariably, would be “no.” Although the students may have been filled with anxiety about the past or future, the teacher wanted to teach that every present moment is absolutely fine. One rabbi put it this way: “The past is gone, the future isn’t here yet, the present passes like the blink of an eye, so what is there to worry about?”
Part of life is living with the unknown. As much as we try to create security, structure, and certainty in our lives, no one is able to predict the future. Not one of us is able to stop the unexpected. None of us is capable of controlling events and circumstances beyond our capabilities – like the weather, the stock market, or our health. Yet, we worry, worry, worry. Meanwhile, the only thing we should be worried about is the fact that we worry so much! Indeed, every moment is perfect as is right now. But we miss it because of worry over the past or future.
Proverbs says: “Anxiety weighs down the heart . . .” Worrying isn’t helpful. I’ve never heard of anyone who worried their problems away. All it does is weigh us down with unnecessary baggage. But how do we break free from such a habit that nearly all of us have adopted?
The verse in Proverbs continues: “ . . . but a kind word cheers it up.” We cannot think two things at once, so the way to stop thinking anxious thoughts is to think happy thoughts.
First, we can turn to God’s Word. King David said: “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction” (Psalms 119:92). David was saying that with all the difficulties that he had to endure, if hadn’t been for God’s Word, he would have perished. There is tremendous comfort and encouragement in God’s Word. Read it.
The Jewish sages also explain that talking to a friend who might offer a kind word can help us switch our negative thoughts for more positive ones. Or, talking to God can help us unburden our soul and allow our heart to be happy once more.
Whatever way we choose, let’s resolve to squash worry when it starts. Don’t let it weigh you down or steal your joy. At the same time, let’s remember that our kind words can help dispel worry from another person’s heart. Let us vanquish worry from our lives and the lives of others so that God can be more present in all our lives.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President