Anxiety in a man’s heart depresses it,
but a kindly word makes it glad.
Although Solomon himself was immensely wealthy, the people of his day had plenty of cause for anxiety. They had undergone years of war under King David, including a civil war when Absolom turned against him. Their livelihood depended on the crops, and weather was variable. And Solomon himself, as king, taxed the people heavily for the construction of the temple. Along with the troubles of everyday life – hoping the children grow up well, maintaining a strong marriage, and all the rest – there was plenty to worry about. Who would not be anxious?
Who, by worrying, can change… Concern about troubling situations, activity to prevent bad outcomes, planning and forethought – all these are helpful. When Solomon speaks of anxiety, though, I think he means the kind of useless worrying about which Jesus said, “Which of you, by worrying, can add a cubit to his stature?” (Matthew 6:27). Anxiety when there is nothing to do simply weighs down the heart.
But telling someone to stop worrying does not help! It takes a kind word – understanding the concern but turning away from worrying alongside the troubled person – to relieve the sorrow and raise the spirits.
According to his good sense a man is praised,
but one with a warped mind is despised.