My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word!
Psalm 119:28 ESV
As we continue stanza daleth of Psalm 119, it continues the theme of lamentation before the LORD; although line two, the psalmist petitions God in prayer for strength in the midst of his sorrow. This verse presents us with a much-needed reminder that God’s Word must be our source of strength throughout times of pain and suffering.
My soul melts away for sorrow. Again, the specific cause behind the psalmist’s sorrow is unimportant, for he is writing generally in order to be applied generally by all who experience sorrow. Indeed, his vivid description of sorrow is an accurate one. Severe grief, sadness, or depression has a way of draining all of one’s energy and feeling like one’s very soul has been melted into nothing. Such a pit of despair seems insurmountable from the bottom. And here we are reminded that God’s people are not immune to feeling such sorrow. Sin and its effects continue to ravage the world and all of its inhabitants, so it is not wrong for a Christian to be stricken with this heaviness. Indeed, the ever-penetrating joy to which we are called runs far deeper than happiness ever could, which means that joy is able to mingle into sorrow whereas mere happiness is driven away.
Yet this verse (like most of the Bible’s lamentations) does not leave us in sorrow. Our present day’s answer to the depression epidemic is twofold: empathy and medication. While empathy has its place, the subtext is often, “I don’t want you to help, just to understand.” The Scriptures, however, go beyond such empathy. They acknowledge the deep, dark sorrows of life, and they then turn to the LORD, calling upon Him for mercy and strength. Indeed, that is the very prayer here: strengthen me according to your word! Sorrow had melted his soul away, so he ran to God’s Word in prayer for strength, for renewal. Notice that he is not praying for his sorrows to be removed but only for the strength to endure them. This must be the action of God’s people who have both the written Word and the embodied Word of God. We must bring our lamentation to Christ, petitioning Him to preserve us through our darkest hours through His Scriptures, for in them we find life. Therefore, in your sorrows do not run away from God’s Word but cling to it for life and strength.