A recent study has shown that encouraging words from a health-care provider can help patients recuperate faster from their ailments. A simple experiment exposed volunteer study participants to a skin allergen to make them itch and then compared the reactions between those who received assurance from their physician and those who didn’t. Patients who received encouragement from their doctors had less discomfort and itching than their counterparts.
The writer of Proverbs knew how important encouraging words are. “Gracious words” bring “healing to the bones,” he wrote (Proverbs 16:24). The positive effect of words isn’t limited to our health: when we heed the wisdom of instruction, we’re also more likely to prosper in our efforts (v. 20). So too encouragement buoys us for the challenges we face now and may encounter in the future.
We may not yet fully understand why or even how much wisdom and encouragement bring strength and healing to our daily lives. Yet the cheers and guidance of our parents, coaches, and colleagues seem to help us endure difficulty and steer us toward success. Similarly, the Bible brings us encouragement when we face trials, equipping us to bear up under even the most unthinkable circumstances. Help us, God, to be strengthened by Your wisdom and to, in turn, offer the healing and hope of “gracious words” to those You’ve placed in our lives.
In Proverbs 16 we find two examples of Hebrew poetry. In verse 20, we see “synonymous parallelism,” in which the same idea is repeated using slightly different words. The key connector for the comparison is the word and. Verse 22 is an example of “antithetical parallelism,” a device that uses opposite ideas set in terms of contrast. Here the key connector for the contrast is the word but. See if you can find other examples of these poetic devices in Proverbs 16.