In casting our cares upon the Lord, we often ask that He give grace or comfort or strength to a person in need. Or we might ask those things for ourselves. These are good, biblical requests. However, I wonder if we stop and think about where the answer might come from. God may use the Holy Spirit to minister comfort to a hurting heart; He may bring a brother or sister in Christ along to speak words of hope and strength. However, there’s one oft-neglected channel through which God often administers His blessings: His Word.
Psalm 119, while being a masterpiece of Hebrew poetry and a beautiful tribute to Scripture, is also the Bible’s longest prayer. For 173 of the 176 verses, the psalmist pours out his heart to God. He makes dozens of requests to the Almighty, from the simple “Help me!” (v. 86) to the imprecatory “May the arrogant be ashamed” (v. 78) to the desperate cry, “Be gracious to me” (v. 58). Often these requests are followed with the phrase “through Your Word,” indicating that the psalmist doesn’t expect these blessings to hit him by lightning bolt. He prays, acknowledging that Scripture is a conduit of God’s blessing.
The Word Brings Strength
“Strengthen me through your word” (Psa. 119:28).
Who among us doesn’t understand a feeling of absolute weakness? Whether from an illness or disease, middle-of-the-night feedings of a newborn, long hours on the job, fatigue brought on from a world gone wacky, or some other source, weakness finds us all. We’re tempted to fight this feeling from within ourselves. After all, that’s what our culture teaches us to do.
We’re taught from a young age that women need to be strong. I watched a children’s movie over the weekend with my toddler in which one of the female characters’ battle cry as she enters the fray is “Woman up!” The producers of this movie clearly wanted to send a not-so-subtle message of “Anything men can do, women can do better.” So, in our moments of weakness, we go in search of strength, perhaps from “super foods,” CrossFit training, or a spa day. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with any of those, they also cannot offer the strength we’re looking for.
The psalmist, a man who had the ear of kings and princes, knew that the strength he needed to face affliction and opposition wouldn’t come from a step up the social ladder or from a number in a bank account or on the scale. He recognized that strength would come through God’s Word.
We don’t know exactly how it gave him strength. But let me venture a guess. The psalmist didn’t find strength by reading one verse in the morning as his “holy Bible vitamin.” His life was characterized by a love of Scripture. Because God’s Word doesn’t return void (Isaiah 55:11), all the time and effort he spent “banking” Scripture in his heart, would come back to pay dividends in the moment he needed it.
Maybe your life doesn’t look quite like the psalmist’s. Don’t let that discourage you. Instead, be encouraged, that true strength awaits you in the pages of God’s Word. If you’re feeling weak, pray along with the psalmist, “Strengthen me through your word”; and then soak in it.
The Word Brings Life
“Turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless; give me life in your ways” (v. 37).
It’s almost hard to believe that the psalmist didn’t make that request in the 21st century, the century of the smart phone, streaming services, and social media. Though I have no idea to what type of “worthless things” he refers in verse 37, I have a pretty good idea of what they are in my own life. What I find especially intriguing about this request, however, is the second half of it: “Give me life in your ways.” It seems that the psalmist fought the temptation not just to look at the “worthless things” but to find life in them. Sound familiar?
I am a self-professed “social media monk,” that is I pretty much avoid that whole scene as much as I possibly can. If a friend begins a question with, “Did you see on Facebook…?” the answer is invariably no. No, I did not. However, while I have made that choice to fight sin in my own heart, I have certainly not conquered the temptation to seek life in empty things. I vacuously scrolly through different apps or zone out in different ways, expecting that somehow turning into a zombie will actually lead me to life.
I don’t know what the temptation may be for you, whether cable news, Instagram, or HGTV. But I do know Satan wants to deceive you into thinking that true “life” is found in those pictures, or that news story, or that remodel. However, we have not only the written Word of God, but the Living Word as well—the One who set aside the glories of heaven to wrap Himself in a robe of flesh and enter a sinful, bitter world, all that we might have “life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
The psalmist, though he looked forward to the Messiah, knew that true life was found in the immortal Word of God. No wonder he spent so much time there! He allowed it to shape his agenda, his priorities, his actions, and his thoughts. From the first verse of his psalm, he says that the “blessed” man, the man who flourishes—who lives the “good life”—is the one “whose way is blameless, who walks in the law of the LORD.” Though none of us (not even the psalmist) will ever know the full abundance of this life, we know the One who does, and He offers it to us as we die to ourselves and become united with Him in His death and resurrection and as we abide in His words.
The Word Brings Comfort
“LORD, I remember your judgments from long ago and find comfort” (Psa. 119:52)
A cup of hot coffee, a relaxing bubble bath, a delicious meal (cooked by someone else, of course), a night out with friends—Where do you find comfort? Each of us has our go-to venue for comfort. While comfort food, a favorite movie, and time with friends have their place, that place must not provide a primary source of comfort. If it does, it’s not actually offering comfort, but rather escape. And that’s not the same thing.
Verse 51, which of course leads into v. 52, tells us that the psalmist was undergoing serious derision and opposition from his opponents. Yet, the very next statement isn’t that he wants to run away from it all or that he wants God to take him out of the situation. He proclaims that by remembering God’s Word he has been comforted. His situation has not changed. He has. While he still hates his situation (v. 53), he has a song in the midst of his affliction (v. 54) and a fortress in God as he keeps watch at night (v. 55).
Perhaps like me you tend to equate comfort with escape. We think that if we could just get out of the hard circumstances, we’d be just fine. But God and His Word offer something so much better than mere escape. Escape is a lie. The beach vacation ends; the high wears off; the coffee runs out; the restaurant closes. And my heart remains unchanged. The God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3) offers something so much better. Through His Word He offers genuine consolation and a heavenly perspective. Yes, the hurt may still sting, but His grace is more. The pain may not be assuaged, but heaven becomes a little brighter and a little closer.
My friends, let’s choose comfort over escape. Let’s choose God and His Word.
I don’t know if you’re in need of strength, life, or comfort today, but our gracious Father is holding out the cup that you need. Take it and drink deeply from His Word.