Is the God of the Old Testament…?
My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word (Psalm 119:28 NRSV).
What do you do when you’re depressed? The psalmist writes a poem of prayer, describing to God the pain of a soul-melting with sorrow. (Despite his blue, melted body, the guy in the picture doesn’t look too bad.) I usually just watch TV. The psalmist’s plan is probably better.
In Hebrew the verb dalaph (“melts” or “weeps”) begins this fourth verse of this fourth section of the psalm (119:25-32) where every verse begins with the fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, dalet. So, it could be translated literally, “Weeps my soul from sorrow…”
So, what’s the cause of the psalmist’s sorrow? It’s hard to know, and there’s not a clear connection between this verse and the previous one where the psalmist ended by meditating on God’s wonderous works.
In any case, the psalmist knows help is needed, so the request is for strengthening according to the word of YHWH. How is the word going to lift the depression? Again, it’s not clear, but two things are clear. First, when the psalmist is struggling with sorrow, prayer (“strengthen me”) is the remedy chosen. Second, the prayer itself focuses on God’s word. Sounds like a good prescription for health. Prayer, Scripture, God.
God, in our pain, help us remember you and your word.