Strategy 119: Spiritual Rehab in 3 Simple Steps
Often, when pressed hard enough, the devoted life - the life of faith - is the first thing that suffers. At times it is abandoned altogether.
BY: David Teems
It is not enough therefore to read and talk of it only, but we must also desire God day and night instantly to open our eyes, and to make us understand and feel why the Scripture was given, that we may apply the medicine of the Scripture, every man to his own sores . . . So now the Scripture is a light and shows us the true way, both what to do and what to hope.
- William Tyndale, A Prologue Showing the Use of the Scripture [From the Tyndale Old Testament, 1531]
Living a godly life is anything but easy, even in more certain times. But the times are anything but certain. Often, when pressed hard enough, the devoted life - the life of faith - is the first thing that suffers. At times it is abandoned altogether. The result is a life out of center, out of plumb, a life isolated, adrift at some distance from God. Whether that distance is great or small, it is a life void of peace.
Not very long ago I found myself in this condition.
Is there medication? Yes, there is.
Psalm 119 has 176 verses, divided into 22 sections according to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each section has 8 verses. My thought was this: I will read one section a day, eight verses a day for the next 22 days. That was it. That was my strategy. Doesn’t sound like much does it? Other than the eight verses a day, and speaking them loud enough to hear myself, there was no rule.
It was not an exercise. It was not a Bible study. I was certainly not gathering material for another book. It was survival. And I advanced upon the Word with the kind of violence Scripture seems to condone and encourage. All the good medicines of the Word were loosed and activated in my behalf. It has a warm and charitable heart.
The result? My first love became my first love again. The change was, and is, irrevocable. I somehow knew that. There was no bridge to cross back over, no horror to relive, no private screening of some past violation.
Reading Scripture is not always about understanding what you read. It is a living exchange, and like any successful relationship it demands submission and mutual regard, the warm mechanics of good dialogue. It is never one-sided. You must engage at close range. And you must leave some part of yourself open to scrutiny.
Scripture has a way of plundering those depths we tend to either protect or evade, particularly in its attempt to stake a claim there. The more you engage with the Word of God, the more you will come to know what is genuine about yourself. For many of us, this is an unsettling proposition. Risk is frightening, and too often we are comfortable enough with the little knowledge we have of ourselves. We have learned how to live agreeably with the counterfeit, with the imaginary, and the superficial. But the nature of Scripture gives us little choice. And you hardly have to take my word for it.
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. - Hebrews 4:12
I did not realize at the time just how invasive the Word is, how deep the penetration, how thorough the meddling and how unrelenting it can be when a territorial dispute is involved. 119 allows a continuous circular kind of feeding. Similar phrases and thoughts return again and again in a revolving cycle—a parallel structure that repeats a single thought in a variety of ways, each one directing back to the Word of God.