(This article is adapted from a post by Sarah House)
In the midst of running errands, I received a text from my mom. My cousin had a serious infection. He was fading fast. When we arrived at the hospital, he was confused and anxious. As I held his hand and wondered if this was goodbye, I spoke the first verse that came to mind:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:1b-3a)
When I memorized that verse as a teenager, our family was not in a moment of crisis. It was just the next verse on the list. However, in that hospital room, I was thankful for that strong, memorized Word to cling to. When the moment of trouble arrives, we rarely have time to search through our concordance for the perfect verse to quench the fiery darts flying at us. May I challenge us to consider how we are fortifying our souls for the days of trouble? After all, we have been promised that trouble will come (John 16:33). The question is, how can we prepare to meet it?
Read the Word
Remember the blessed man of Psalm 1? “[H]is delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither” (Psalm 1:2b-3a). He continuously fills himself with the Word, and in so doing, he does not wither. Drink from the Word. Do it daily. Do it when you need it most. In those hectic, harried days of infants and toddlers, I needed the Word at night to bring peace and rest. Now that the kids are older, the Word is my morning wakeup, giving me hope and focus for the day ahead. Sometimes I read chapters, sometimes just a single chapter. The point is to read it, know it, pray through it, and submit to it. There is not a burden we carry or a trouble we face that cannot be helped by a better knowledge of what God has spoken to us:
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:7-11)
Meditate on the Word
It is good to read through the whole Bible, but we should not be content with just a broad overview. We must learn to “camp out” in a text. Different passages speak more poignantly to us in different seasons, and they are worth digging into. For example, as a single woman, I anchored my soul in the sovereignty of God expressed in the book of Ruth. While preparing for marriage, it was John 15. This summer it was Psalm 103. For my oldest son, it is Proverbs 18:10 and Psalm 56:3-4. Take time to read deeply: look up cross references, learn the historical context, and read commentaries to see what theological gems scholars have gleaned. Does a certain passage grip your heart? Write it on an index card and put it up on the fridge, on the bathroom mirror, in your purse or wallet—anywhere you will see it often. Memorize it. When trials come, rehearse it in your mind until your soul is refreshed in its truth.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63:5-8)
Study the Word Under Trustworthy Teachers
God has gifted certain men with the ministry of the Word, and we do well to place ourselves under their exegetical preaching. But, as a mom with young children around me in the service, I rarely have the opportunity to listen undistractedly on a Sunday morning—not to mention the Sundays we stay home sick. However, we live in a digital age. Many churches make their sermons available online. Find and listen to sermons by trustworthy pastors that will help you understand the Word better, as well as how to accurately apply it to your life. While teaching in children’s Sunday school, I made it a habit to listen to one sermon each week (sometimes my local pastor, but also faithful expositional preachers) that focused on the main Scripture text of my lesson. Not only did this help me prepare for Sunday school, but it fed my soul in a season of distracted and sporadic attendance.
[R]eceive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21b)
Sing the Word
Sometimes songs penetrate hearts deeper than spoken truth. Stock your music library with songs grounded in the Word that will lift your heart to God (artists like Keith & Kristyn Getty and Fernando Ortega do this well). Play them as you go about your household tasks or as you drive around in the car. Study the lyrics and think through the truths they speak. Listen to them until they penetrate your memory. Every night our children fall asleep to Fernando Ortega’s album “The Shadow of Your Wings”—an album filled with Scripture-based songs as well as hymns. Not only has this album quieted our restless souls, it has taught our children hymns we sing in corporate worship. There is nothing so heartening as hearing your daughter happily belting out “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” while brushing her teeth.
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, […]. For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. (Psalm 92:1-2, 4)
Memorize the Word
In all this reading and meditating, listening and singing, you’ll likely find that verses are beginning to stick in your memory. That’s a wonderful fruit of saturating your life with Bible. But it’s also worth making an intentional effort to focus on the words of particular passages in order to memorize them. Often when we most need the Bible is when we are least able to access it. In the midst of a family emergency, the middle of the office or grocery store, in a tense phone conversation or emotional prayer with a friend, there is not time to grab a Bible and start flipping through to find a passage you remember reading or singing last week. These are times to have the Word at the ready, in your heart, and available to the Holy Spirit to prompt you to speak and pray the Words of God out loud.
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11
Don’t wait for the hospital room to find that verse you need, to ask that theological question, to try to remember what, exactly, those good lyrics are. Prepare. Prepare your heart for the next family gathering, for the “random” moment you run into an old friend who has just heard bad news, or even for the next time your child has a nightmare. Jesus said troubles would come—and He did not leave us without help. Read the Word. Meditate on the Word. Study the Word. Sing the Word. Memorize it. In so doing, you will be obeying the Word:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:16-17)