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.
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.
119 is a perfect psalm for regaining spiritual equilibrium. And a quiet heart. Whether you actually are adrift or if you seek some deeper penetration into the spiritual life, the following strategy can help.
1. Read 8 verses of Psalm 119 a day for twenty-two days. On Day 1, read only the first stanza, 119:1-8. On Day 2, read the second stanza, 119:9-16. Repeat this procedure every day for the entire twenty-two-day period, until all 176 verses are read.
Do not skip a day. Consistency and routine are important. Ultimately, you are establishing a rule. This means you will learn new habits and unlearn others. Do not think. Do not consider. Just say the words.
2. Read the verses out loud. It is important for you to say the words out loud. Do not read them quietly to yourself. Listen to what you are saying. The Word of God is a creative force. When God created heaven and earth, he did not simply have the image in his mind. He did not think them into being. He spoke creation into existence. He spoke order and refinement into chaos. Only then did creation respond. It was important for God to speak the words. In that same creative spirit, it is just as important for you to speak the eight verses out loud every day. You are an active participant.
3. Approach each day’s reading with no expectations. This may take some practice, and it will certainly take a measure of trust. But give it time. Let consistency and desire do their mysterious work.
Strategy 119 is a simple but effective strategy to help you regain spiritual wellness. And even with our fondness for numbers, three simple steps is all that such an application should have. This strategy is just a beginning, a foundation. There is nothing magic in the words. You are simply asked to be available, to listen deeply and with a willing heart. The heart is often wise under threat and knows its own medication. It knows where home is, and ultimately how to get there.
David Teems is the author of Discovering Your Spiritual Center: The Power of Psalm 119 [Leafwood, 2011]. David's other books include Majestie: The King Behind the King James Bible [Nelson, 2011], Tyndale: The Man Who Gave God An English Voice [Nelson, 2012], And Thereby Hangs A Tale: What I Know About The Devoted Life I Learned From My Dogs [Harvest House, 2010]. www.davidteems.com