Psalm 119 is infamous for its 176 verses extolling the law of God. I used to be daunted by its length and considered it rather dry and boring. I am currently following a Bible reading plan that includes going through the psalms twice in one year, and when I first got to Psalm 119 about six months ago I gave an inward groan and geared myself up for anticipated arduousness. I expected dullness; instead, I found richness that called out to me in my suffering. Reading this psalm in the midst of the most severe trial of my life, the words of this psalm leapt out to me in a way they never had before. No longer filtering into my brain as a drone of "law, blah, blah, law, blah," I heard precious promises of the unspeakable comfort to be found in God's word during times of senseless sorrow. Here are some favorite selections:
"My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!" (v. 28)
"This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life." (v. 50)
"You are good and do good; teach me your statutes." (v. 68)
"It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes." (v. 71)
"Your hands have made me and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments. Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word. I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant." (v. 73-76)
"My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your work. My eyes long for your promise; I ask, "When will you comfort me?" (v. 81-82)
"If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction." (v. 92)
"I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your word!" (v. 107)
"Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope!" (v. 116)
"Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight." (v. 143)
"Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your word." (v. 170)
When I recently read Psalm 119 for the second time this year, I approached it with eager delight. I knew I would find the sweet balm of comfort, the antidote to my despairing feelings in the face of affliction. These words don't make suffering vanish, they don't explain why hardships happen, but they consistently remind me that my troubles are not in vain in the hands of the God who defines good. His promises are precious because they lead me to know my Savior better, and they are truer than any earthly experience. I want, like the psalmist, to embrace my suffering as a means of drawing closer to the God who has afflicted me in faithfulness and love, for my good.
Psalm 119 now ranks high on my list of recommended reading for anyone enduring a trial. It has become one of my favorite passages in the Bible, a storehouse of wisdom and comfort written by a fellow sufferer who knew anguish but knew God better.