These verses of our psalm are perhaps some of my favorite from Psalm 119. Over 20 years ago, these were some of the Scriptures the Lord used to bring about tremendous healing and freedom in my life. I grew up in church. I even walked the aisle and was baptized as a child in elementary school. I rededicated my life in high school, and again in college. I wanted the life of peace, contentment and joy that grounded so many of my family and friends, but could not seem to find it. I was good at going through the motions but the transformation had not made its way from my head to my heart. I was still holding onto what I thought was the good life and I wanted Jesus, plus my independence. After graduation, I headed off to a Christian college to pursue my degree and thought perhaps I’d go into full time ministry in the mission field to find what I’d been seeking. My freshman year I experienced something that made me question whether God was listening or even cared for me. I decided I’d take it from there. I could run my own life.
Within a few years, I got married and began a family. But that void was still there and I felt it. I began to try to fill that void with beautiful things that made me happy. So in my quest for the beautiful things that I thought would bring happiness, I shopped! I shopped when I was stressed. I shopped when I felt lonely. I shopped when I was bored. And all that shopping took its toll on our finances (of course), but also on my marriage. Eventually I ended up at the bottom of a pit looking up and wondering how I’d gotten there. I remember sitting on the couch in my dream home, furnished just as I had imagined and my children playing the backyard, just weeping. I remember asking God what was wrong with my life and why He would allow me to be so lonely and to make such a mess of things.
The next phrase I heard was as audible as if someone was sitting next to me, you need Jesus. I had lots of head knowledge (I was actually a Christian Studies major in college at one point) but Truth was finally beginning to make its way from my head to my heart. I got down on my knees and surrendered my life to Christ. I didn’t want to be in charge. I confessed the mess I’d made and asked the Lord to show me what I needed. I began attending church with my children (my husband refused at the time). Life was not instantly “fixed”, things actually got worse. But God began working in my life.
At one of my lowest points, I remember looking over on my nightstand and noticed my Bible. My Bible had always had a spot on my nightstand. Prior to surrendering my life to Jesus, I rarely (more like never) opened it. I never thought much about it. It was just another accessory in my home. But in my complete despair from the bottom of that pit, I opened it to the psalms and began to read. It was as if every emotion and thought I had ever experienced was right there in those pages. God used His Word and His Spirit in such a powerful way to transform my heart and life.
My cries and desires were resonating with the psalmist in Psalm 119:33-35:
Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees,
that I may follow it to the end.
Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law
and obey it with all my heart.
Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight. (NIV)
Teach me! Give me understanding! Direct me in Your path where I’ll find delight!
Over time the Lord brought some amazing women into my life to disciple and encourage me. My husband eventually surrendered His life to Christ. Our marriage was healing. God was doing some amazing work in the life of our family. Even in the midst of things falling apart, I was strangely experiencing a sense of peace, security and even joy. My life as I knew it had crumbled but God was rebuilding it according to His ways and plans. However, that shopping addiction was still a lure for me. It was just the easy place to run to when life became overwhelming. The Lord had brought so much restoration to our lives from the mess I had made, which made me feel even worse when I’d give into that temptation knowing the devastation it had brought. But our God is so very faithful! As I continued to cry out and seek Him, the Lord answered, instructed and guided me. God continued to work over the years and has brought me to a place where shopping no longer has the control over my life it once did.
I’ll never forget the day I read Psalm 119:36-37:
Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain
Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. (NIV)
These words gave shape to the thoughts replaying in my head. I needed the Lord to help me to turn when I felt that pull to fill my empty spaces with empty things. It became my prayer over the years, and still is when I feel that pull to seek the things the world or my own desires over the Lord. I had these verses written out on notecards in my car, on my desk, in my bedroom and in my kitchen.
This was my continual prayer, “Turn my heart from selfish gain, turn my eyes from worthless things. Preserve my life according to Your Word!”
God is so very faithful! As I cried out, He answered and delivered.
Psalm 119:41-42, were an answer to my cries for help and deliverance:
May your unfailing love come to me, Lord,
your salvation, according to your promise;
then I can answer anyone who taunts me,
for I trust in your word. (NIV)
When the enemy taunted me, I could run to the Lord and His Word, and rest in His unfailing love. Each time the Lord used His Word to keep me from stumbling, it built my faith and trust a little bit more. As I began to study and memorize Scripture, He was building an arsenal of weapons for me to use against the enemy.
Psalm 119:45 is the testimony of my life:
I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. (NIV)
The NIV uses the phrase “freedom” but the ESV translates this word as “a wide place”. I love the imagery. Freedom does feel like walking in a wide, open space as opposed to the narrow, confining space of bondage and sin. I walk about in freedom, peace, contentment and joy when I seek the Lord and His ways. When in my trouble and distress I cry out to Him, He teaches, gives understanding, leads and guides me in His ways. His Word is my delight!
How is God using His Word to transform your heart and life?
Do you need Psalm 119:36-37 to be your prayer to turn from selfish gain and worthless things?
Are you walking in freedom?
My prayer is that God would use His Word and His Spirit at work in your heart and life to bring about freedom, restoration, joy and peace.
Rejoicing in Him!
Journaling Assignment: Read and journal Psalm 119:49-56 (Zayin) and Psalm 57-64 (Heth)
©2017 Susan Cady