Before my youngest was born, I bought him a pale blue blanket and had his name stitched on one corner. It was the softest blanket and he quickly attached to it. (Actually, I ended up buying two of them in case we ever lost one. If you are a parent, you know why!). When he was younger, whenever my son was sad or scared, I could find him curled up in his blanket. For the longest time, it went everywhere with us, a comfortable and reliable companion in an often confusing and frightening world.
We all have things we run to for comfort. We all have instinctive, go-to, automatic things we turn to for hope, encouragement, and strength when we are weakened by the cares of this life. More than likely, it's not a blanket. But it might be food, drink, television, shopping, work, social media, or exercise. It might be a person. It might be an experience. We turn to such things when life is hard in the hopes that it will rescue us, give us strength, or somehow make things better.
The longest psalm in the book of Psalms is 119. David wrote all 176 verses about God's word. Each verse references God's word in some way, highlighting God's wisdom and truth.
"My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!" Psalm 119:28
This one little verse has a lot to tell us about strength and where to find it. First, the psalmist is crying out to the Lord, telling him of his sorrow. He turns to the only wise One, the King of the universe, the maker and sustainer of all things. He cries out to God in honesty, voicing the depths of his distress and trouble.
Secondly, the psalmist asks for help. He asks for strength and seeks it from God in his word. The New Living Translation puts it, "encourage me by your word." The Psalmist is turning to God's word as his source of strength, hope, and encouragement during his time of sorrow.
And what does the psalmist learn from God's word? Farther down, in verse 50 he wrote, "This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life." And further he wrote, "Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast. By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants. If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life." (89-93). God's word gave the psalmist life.
Turn to God’s Word
When we are in the pit of sorrow, when we are frozen by fear, when we are weakened by the cares of this life, we need to turn to God's word. It is our strength. It's how God communicates with us. Through the Spirit at work in us, he uses his word to change us, correct us, comfort us, guide us, and equip us.
As the author to the Hebrews wrote, "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (4:12). Paul wrote, "Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). In John 17:17, Jesus said that the word sanctifies us.
On this side of redemptive history, we have the complete word of God. All the promises that the psalmist hoped in have been fulfilled in Christ. Jesus is the Word made flesh. He is wisdom incarnate. He is the Word to whom the written word points. When we turn to God's word for strength, it reveals to us more of Christ, who he is and what he has done. It is in knowing Christ and being known by him that we find the only hope that matters.
In our fallen nature, when the cares of this life weigh us down, we tend to turn to temporary comforts or solutions for help and strength rather than God. But they all pale in comparison. They fail to deliver or provide any lasting hope. But in reading, studying, and dwelling on God's word we find the Word, Immanuel, and in him is the source of all our hope and strength.
These days, both of my son’s blankets sit on the shelf in his closet. He no longer needs them. Over time, he’s learned to turn to God when the cares of life overwhelm him, or he comes to my husband and I and asks us to pray for him. May we too cast aside the counterfeits, and turn instead to the real thing, our Savior, Jesus Christ.
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…” (Hebrews 6:19 NIV).