9 How can young people keep their paths pure?
By guarding them according to what you’ve said.
10 I have sought you with all my heart.
Don’t let me stray from any of your commandments!
11 I keep your word close, in my heart,
so that I won’t sin against you.
Psalm 119 may be best known to casual Bible readers as “the longest chapter in the Bible” (it is 176 verses long). But the psalm is not a novelty—it’s a record of a profound spiritual struggle, which speaks to people of all ages. Pastor Donald Williams wrote, “The psalmist is also engaged in a battle with himself. Thus he has shame (v. 6), is in danger of wandering (v. 10), and is vulnerable to sin (v. 11). His soul clings to the dust (v. 25); he has heaviness (v. 28), is vulnerable to lying (v. 29) and covetousness (v. 36), and has gone astray (vv. 67, 176). His soul faints (v. 81), he cries for help (v. 147), and he needs deliverance.”*
Dear God, I want to whole-heartedly set my feet on the path of life, the path on which I live out your principles. I know I can’t do that in my own strength, and I ask you to empower me to live a pure life. Amen.
* Donald Williams, The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 14: Psalms 73–150. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989, p. 343.
** Robert G. Bratcher and William D. Reyburn, A Handbook on the Book of Psalms. New York: United Bible Societies, 1991, p. 1000.
In my late teens and early twenties, I believed that Christianity was judgmental and restrictive. I felt that it was not relevant to what it means to be a young adult. For me, a life in Christ meant that I would have to relinquish a fun life. When I pierced my eyebrow at nineteen years old, I walked boldly into my grandparents' church to see what kind of reaction I would receive. It was mixed, but my focus landed on those who wanted to judge. On top of that I took a logic class in college, and I decided logically that God did not exist. From that point I decided to officially leave the church to live the life I wanted, according to my rules.
At first life was great! It was fun and exciting! However, fun, without boundaries or accountability to another, can become more restrictive than the negative glances I would experience at my grandparents' church. Over the course of several years, I became directionless. When my job or my relationships ended, I would change course immediately to try to figure out what would really make me happy. Nothing really ever did.
During the summer of 2007, I visited Cairo, Egypt. I was once again at a divergent road, trying to figure out which way I was going to direct my life. I had always told myself, if God wants me to believe, then God will make God’s self known to me. And boy, did God ever do exactly that! In July of that summer, a group of girls that I had met in Egypt and I decided to take camel rides out by the pyramids to watch the sun set. As the sun dipped behind the horizon, the minarets of Cairo came to life with the Muslim call to prayer. As I looked back over the city, I was overcome by the presence of God. It was a palpable and radiating sensation. In that moment I looked to the west, and I knew. While I had been trying to figure out how to make something big of my life, I knew in an instant that I was already a part of something bigger than myself. I knew in that moment that I was a part of God’s story, and that my life actually had a purpose.
As I returned to Kansas City later that summer, I began attending church again with my grandparents, and within a year I was reading Scriptures during Sunday morning services. Within a few years of getting to know God, my life became much more free than it had been. As a broken human, I do stray from God’s commandments often, but just as the psalmist proclaimed in this passage, I know that by guarding God’s words close to my heart, I have a greater ability to live into the abundance of life that has been offered to me (and you too!) through Jesus Christ. We often get it wrong, but God’s law does not restrict--it frees.
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