Question: "Why does Proverbs 12:25 say that anxiety causes depression?"
Answer: Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad” (NKJV). While there are different causes for depression, Solomon identifies an important one, anxiety. “Anxiety weighs down the heart” (NIV).
Proverbs 12 teaches the differences between wisdom and foolishness and goodness and evil in a series of contrastive statements. These proverbs touch many areas of life, including loving discipline vs. hating reproof (Proverbs 12:1), good vs. evil (Proverbs 12:2), wickedness vs. righteousness (Proverbs 12:3), an excellent vs. a shameful wife (Proverbs 12:4), righteous thoughts vs. wicked counsels (Proverbs 12:5), wicked words vs. the mouth of the upright (Proverbs 12:6), the longevity of the righteous vs. the brevity of the wicked (Proverbs 12:7), insight vs. perverse thinking (Proverbs 12:8), humility vs. self-honor (Proverbs 12:9), righteous treatment of animals vs. cruelty (Proverbs 12:10), diligence vs. idleness (Proverbs 12:11), wicked desires vs. righteous fruit (Proverbs 12:12), and sinful vs. righteous lips (Proverbs 12:13). Proverbs 12:14 is a capstone to the contrasts in verses 1–13, summarizing that words and deeds bear fruit.
Proverbs 12:15–27 offers another list of contrasts, with Proverbs 12:28 summarizing that the way of righteousness promotes life and not death. It is in this section of contrasts that the Bible tells us that anxiety causes depression (Proverbs 12:25). The contrasts illustrating the benefits of righteousness over evil include a fool’s quickness to anger vs. a prudent person’s concealing dishonor (Proverbs 12:16), speaking truth vs. bearing false witness (Proverbs 12:17), speaking rashly vs. the healing tongue of the wise (Proverbs 12:18), truthful lips are established forever vs. the temporality of lying lips (Proverbs 12:19), the deceitful devising of evil vs. peaceful and joyful counsel (Proverbs 12:20), the trouble of the wicked vs. the protection of the righteous (Proverbs 12:21), lying lips vs. faithful dealing (Proverbs 12:22), prudent concealing of knowledge vs. foolish proclaiming of folly (Proverbs 12:23), diligence vs. slackness (laziness) (Proverbs 12:24), anxiety causing depression vs. good words causing gladness (Proverbs 12:25), the righteous guiding of a neighbor vs. the wicked leading astray (Proverbs 12:26), and laziness vs. diligence (Proverbs 12:27). All these contrasts show that righteousness is of practical good (Proverbs 12:28).
The context helps us understand why the Bible tells us that anxiety causes depression. The path of righteousness is not just the right path to take, but it also offers many practical benefits. For example, anxiety causes depression, but good words make the heart glad (Proverbs 12:25). Anxiety is worry, a lack of trusting in God and taking on too much responsibility for circumstances. When we are anxious, we tell ourselves (or listen to others who tell us) words that put on us responsibilities that are not ours.
The psalmists dealt with anxiety and the depression it can bring. When the psalmist anxiously says that his foot has slipped, he recalls that God’s lovingkindness will hold him up and God’s encouragements are a delight (Psalm 94:19–20). Elsewhere, David entreats God to search and discover anxious thoughts within him (Psalm 139:23). At the same time, he asks God to “see if there is any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:24, NASB). These psalmists recognize that anxiety is fixing one’s attention on trouble rather than on the promises of God, and they look to God to relieve the depression that results.
The Bible tells us that anxiety causes depression, but, in finishing Proverbs 12:25, it also reminds us that a good word can bring gladness. When encouraging the descendants of Abraham, God reminds them that they should not anxiously look about them, but they should focus on God—“I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). Paul reminds us that we should be anxious for nothing but rather be prayerful—the result will be that we will enjoy God’s incredible peace in our lives (Philippians 4:6–7), no matter how painful or difficult our circumstances. Instead of bearing the weight of those difficulties ourselves and becoming anxious and depressed, we can cast our anxiety on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).