Psalm 119:28 “My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!”
When a Christian reads the words above, he or she may question how this could refer to a believer when we are told in other places in scripture things such as “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice (Philippians 4:4).” Surely these two scriptures can’t be referring to the same type of person – or can they? In reality, the Bible tells us much about our emotions, be it anger, fear, joy, peace, or anxiety – and what to do about them. As we all know, often emotions come on us without warning, and, in fact, they can control us. When someone shouts “fire!!” it’s normal for fear to grip us. When we find out a friend or relative has died, the shock of grief is a very normal and inevitable reaction. Yet, the Bible makes clear that the prevailing attitude of a believer should be joy.
The fact is that when negative emotions overwhelm our souls, as was true for the one who wrote Psalm 119, we don’t ever need to remain in that condition. There is always a remedy for the believer. There is always hope – a way out- a way up, for one gripped by fear, anxiety, depression, or grief. And that way out is through what we choose to think about at such times. It’s all about where we choose to train our thoughts and the Psalms give us many such examples.
In Psalm 119 above, the writer is overwhelmed by sorrow. In that condition, he turns to the God Whom he knows loves him, and says “strengthen me according to your word!” Thank God that we have the Word of God at such times which is full of the Truth of God in which we can trust. It is because of the Word that we know that “for those who love God all things work together for good (Romans 8:28).” In another Psalm we read these words: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me (Psalm 56:3-4)?” The Word reminds us over and over again that God is with us, that He will never leave us or forsake us, and that there is a purpose for everything that enters our lives. We are never left hanging. We are never “on our own” without help, and without hope.
However, although God’s Word has so much to say to us to help us in such difficult times, we must believe what it says or our emotions will control us, rather than the other way around. Our prevailing emotional condition tells us much about the strength of our faith. Strong faith brings joy as we trust in the One who is “for us” for “if God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31).” And we can be certain, as Christians, if we are lacking in joy, God loves us too much to allow us to stay that way. Listen to the words of Paul as he talks about how God was at work in his life to strengthen his faith and eventually enable him to say “Rejoice in the Lord always.” “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again (2 Corinthians 1:8-10).”
The prevailing emotion of the believer is always meant to be joy, and God, who wants this for us is always working in us to bring it about. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” is a prayer from Romans 15:13, a prayer written by the apostle Paul. But more than that, it is a blessing from the heart of the Holy Spirit written through Paul for each one of us who loves the Lord.