When my husband was a children’s pastor in Indiana, we took our church grade schoolers on a day trip to a state park. We hiked, picnicked, played, and hiked some more.
The trail out of the park was a long flight of stairs — around 200 wooden steps that seemed more like 2,000. The kids climbed, single file, counting each and every step aloud as they went.
Somewhere around step #75, one little girl had enough. Partly exhausted and partly just stubborn, she stopped dead in her tracks, sat down on the step, and crossed her arms. The line backed up behind her, and the counting halted.
Calls of “Go!” and “She won’t go!” made their way to the front of the line, where my husband led the troupe. He turned around and called back to her, “We’re almost there! Keep walking!” She shook her head and kept her seat.
An adult sponsor a few stairs behind hurried over.
“Are you hurt?” the sponsor asked.
“No,” came the response.
“Then what’s the problem?”
“We’re all tired. Now stand up!”
Stand up! I can relate. Spiritually speaking, I’ve been in that little girl’s place. Too exhausted, or perhaps just too defiant, to take another step. “God, my faith is weak and my strength is gone. I’m tired!”
But the psalmist knew just how to stand. “My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your Word” (Psalm 119:28). The word “strengthen” literally means “to stand up, to make stand.” In The Message, Eugene Peterson says it this way: “…build me up again by your Word.” When hardships weigh me down, when my heart is heavy, God’s Word stands me back up again. He strengthens me to stand.
First, God’s Word stands me up when I meditate on it. When I dwell on His character and the promises found in His written Word, I am made strong. Life may leave my soul “weary with sorrow,” but scripture meditation strengthens me to stand.
I’ve never experienced this more than when my son was born. After a placental abruption, Nathan arrived nearly 7 weeks early. He had a seizure and spent 3 weeks on a ventilator in NICU. The many machines and tubes attached to his tiny body terrified us, and our hearts ached. Always the note-maker, I copied several verses on 3×5 index cards and taped them around Nathan’s little bed. What strength it gave! In our scariest, lowest time, God’s Word encouraged us with reminders of His faithfulness and goodness. Our circumstances didn’t change — our son remained in the hospital — but God’s Word gave us the strength to stand.
Since then, I’ve used index cards for scripture meditation many times. I’ve taped verse cards by the kitchen sink and on my bathroom mirror. I’ve even hidden a verse in my pocket, when I knew I’d see a particularly difficult person. Scripture meditation has strengthened me to stand up when I didn’t think I could.
However, too often, I forget. Instead of dwelling on God’s truth, I focus on Satan’s lies. I lose sleep worrying, when I could be resting peacefully in God’s promises. And even though I should “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5), instead I meditate on thoughts that are angry, envious, or anxious.
But this isn’t the mind of Christ. This isn’t a heart strengthened to stand. Lord, let my thoughts honor You, and center on Your truth! Let me say with the psalmist, “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your Word” (Psalm 119:15-16).
Secondly, God’s Word strengthens me to stand when I memorize it. I’ve known that scripture memory was important ever since I was a child, and I earned gold stars for reciting Bible verses at Sunday School. Long ago I was told to hide God’s Word in my heart “that I might not sin against” Him (Psalm 119:11). But for most of my life, scripture memory remained, to me, of little more importance than those gold star stickers.
Until this year.
Last December, I determined that 2009 would be my year to encounter God through His Word like never before. When Beth Moore, my favorite Bible study author, launched a scripture memory program for this year, I signed up eagerly.
Twice a month since last January, I’ve worked to memorize a different scripture. In the beginning, the memory project was fun, and the scripture encouraged me. I knew what the psalmist meant when he wrote, “Your statutes … are the joy of my heart” (Psalm 119:111).
As the months passed, though, the passages I’d hidden in my heart began to meddle with my mind. They weren’t uplifting or “fun” anymore. I didn’t realize it at first, but the “living and active” Word of God — that “double-edged sword” — had gone to work in the deepest, darkest corners of me. Once I memorized, “He who promised is faithful,” for instance, I could no longer worry over our finances. Learning “you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear” challenged me to a bolder obedience.
My wrong beliefs were forced to wrestle with God’s truth. “These verses are rewiring my brain,” I told my husband. “I don’t think the same thoughts I used to think.” To put it simply, God’s Word changed my mind.
How can God encourage me in the midst of a trial, if I don’t know His Word by heart? How else will I be armed in spiritual battle, if I haven’t memorized scripture? Lord, “I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life” (Psalm 119:93).
Illness, broken relationships, fear of the unknown can all leave me drained and defeated. I feel like the little girl who sat down on the hike: “I’m tired!” And yet, the Lord builds me up again when I meditate on and memorize scripture. “My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word” (Psalm 119:28).
God’s Word stands me back up again. He strengthens me to stand.