Dear HBC family,
It is such a great joy and pleasure to be writing to you today. That said, it is your faces I wish to see most. Like Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica following his forced and hasty departure, “we endeavor the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face…For you are our glory and joy” (2 Thess 2:17, 20). HBC family, I can say that you are my joy. With all of my heart, both day and night, I pray that our Lord will bring us together again, and know that I look with excitement for that day!
One of my goals this year is to commit Psalm 119 to memory. Being the guy God made me, with the mind he gifted me with, let’s just say I’m very thankful I have a full 365 days to complete such a task. Each morning, I attempt to add a new verse to memory as well as review the previous verses I’ve covered. As I attempted to recite as much of the chapter as I could this morning I found my heart and mind settling on v.28 which says…
“My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!”
For those who are familiar with this chapter, you will know that Psalm 119 is “wholly spent in consideration of the divine law” or as we would most often refer to it, God’s word. It’s been said “the scope and design of it (Psalm 119) is “manifest” or extremely clear. This psalm commends the diligent study, steadfast belief, and constant practice of God’s word as incomparably the best counselor and comforter in the world” (Plummer, 1018). The short explanation here is, the Word of God, reading it, believing it, obeying it is the one and only way to life. And by life the Bible means much more than just a heart beating and lungs breathing. Biblical life, Christ given life is eternal, abundant, peaceful, satisfying, and overflowing with joy. It is eyes that see hope in the darkest nights, it is a heart that loves the most hateful enemy, its hands and feet that run to the neighbor in need, it is rest as though all work is done and all treasures are secure. God tells us throughout the Bible but especially here in Psalm 119 that life, as he meant for us to know it, is found fully and only in his word.
Over the past month, we have all been faced with uncertainty, trials, and fear. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak my family was confronted with my nieces’ diagnosis of Aplastic Anemia. The unrest that came with her diagnosis was only compounded by the viral outbreak which occurred a week later. In a matter of days, my very normal and relatively “easy” life was completely flipped upside down. For what felt like the first time in my life, I was being forced to actually believe all the things I’ve been telling everyone else to believe. I found myself struggling to focus on any one thought. I found it difficult to “have faith”, or peace, or joy. So, even though I didn’t feel like being in God’s word or worshiping him at church, I did the only things I knew to do. I continued to read my Bible each morning, even if it was only a verse or two. I continued to pray, in total desperation and every minute of the day, that God would save my niece. And I went to church (when we still could), and I sat on the front row and sang and listened, and took notes.
In doing these things, in putting myself in proximity to God and his word, the reality of v.28 became extremely clear. Though my heart was and is still melting away for sorrow, His word does strengthen me. The Bible truly is the source of life. Why wouldn’t it be? If we take just a moment to think about it, the Bible is the very words or breath of God! In Genesis we know when God spoke EVERYTHING was created. Stars, the earth, mountains, man, and life. We also know that God’s word always accomplishes its task (Isa 55:11). So now, as always before, when you hear God’s word, it creates and what it creates is “life” in you and me. It also strengthens us because God’s word isn’t just an external word, it is also The Word which became flesh and dwelt among us…the only Son from the Father (Jn 1:14), it’s Jesus. When we are in the Bible, we aren’t just hearing God’s voice; we are also accompanied by The Son. Philippians 4 tells us we can have a peace that surpasses understanding because the Lord (Jesus Christ) is at hand. The remedy for fear or sorrow is a person. Consider how you are afraid when you walk into an unknown dark place alone. But simply hold someone’s hand while in that same dark place and your fears melt away. If a mere human can bring such calm, how much more the eternal Son of God. And that is precisely who takes your hand when you plant yourself in the words of scripture.
Like me, and the writer of Psalm 119, you may be saying “my soul melts away for sorrow” today. Maybe it’s out of fear of the viral outbreak. Maybe its due to financial uncertainty because you lost a job. Maybe its because you’re in jeopardy of missing a graduation, wedding, or final sports season that you’ve waited a lifetime for. There are numerous circumstances on this side of heaven that cast our souls into sorrow. But you can take heart today, because regardless of the depth or cause of the sorrow, God has given a life-giving Word that has overcome every part of this world. The path to life is a simple one: listen to the word of God. Read it. Sing it. Pray it. Meditate on it. Obey it. Fellowship with Him today, all day and every day.