My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to Thy word!
Psalm 119 is the longest of the 150 Psalms. The funeral service in the Orthodox Church is based in part on the verses from this Psalm (which are also sung on Good Friday evening when we offer the Lamentations, the funeral of Christ). The Psalm is written in the first person, using “my” and “me” and “I.” The Psalm not only give glory and respect to the laws of God, but makes a plea for the individual soul before God, for God to be merciful and accept each soul, both in this life and in the next. If you think about it, the entire goal of life is for God to accept our souls into His heavenly kingdom. However, the journey through this life is frequently marked by challenges and even sorrows, times when the soul feels heavy. Thus, we ask God to not only accept our souls into heaven, but to be with our souls and bring comfort and strength to them while we are on earth.
There are many instances in the Psalms where a single verse can capture both sorrow and joy. Such is the case with this morning’s verse. It acknowledges a soul that is sorrowful. And at the same time places faith in the words and promises of God. For if one had not faith, he or she would not cry out “strengthen me according to Thy word!” I’m reminded of the story from Mark 9: 14-29, where a man asks Jesus to heal his son, who has a demonic spirit in him. He implores Jesus to have pity on him and to help him. Jesus tells Him that with God, all things are possible. And then the father cries out and says perhaps the most honest statement that anyone ever said to Christ, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
Today’s Psalm has almost the same theme. My soul is struggling, but it can be strengthened only by You, Lord. Every day we read about the sorrows of people in the news. Perhaps we don’t know the particular people whose names we hear on the news, we don’t understand or even believe the depth of suffering some people have. It may even seem unreal to us. If you look at the people in your life carefully, however, I would bet that just about every one of us, right now, knows someone who is struggling. I would venture to say that perhaps some of the thousands of people reading today’s message are struggling as well.
If you are struggling right now, don’t despair. You are still “in the game.” God knows our struggles. He is in our struggles with us. I’m reminded of the story in Matthew 8 when Jesus was asleep in a boat. The disciples were on the boat and there was a great storm. In the middle of the night they woke Him up. And He calmed the sea. Having Jesus in your boat doesn’t mean there won’t be any storms. It does mean that you’ll have the capacity to get through them.
So, if you are struggling today, here are some ideas for things to do:
- Pray. Pray. Pray. And Pray some more.
- Ask someone to pray for you.
- Ask someone to pray with you. Ask them to pray and allow you to listen to their prayer.
- Find a good friend and ask for a few minutes to bend their ear.
- Read Psalm 119.
- Get an icon of Christ, take it in a dark room, light a candle in front of Christ and just “be” with Him.
Lord, You know the struggles of each of us. You know our joys as well. Bless us in our joys and strengthen us in our struggles. Help us to know we are not alone. Surround us with people who will encourage us. Surround us with Your holy angels to protect us. Send us Your love and grace to reassure us. And be with those who feel alone and defeated and give them the courage and strength to take another step today. Amen.
God is with us in our storms!