Is this David, "whose heart is as the heart of a lion, here utterly melting?" But the sorrows, as the joys of the spiritual man—dealing immediately with the Infinite and Eternal God—are beyond conception. Ordinary courage may support under the trials of this life; but when "the arrows of the Almighty are within us, the poison thereof drinks up our spirit." How, then, can the Christian's lot be so enviable, when their souls thus melt for heaviness? But this, be it remembered, is only "for a season." There is a "needs-be" for it, while it remains: and in the end it "will be found unto praise, and honor, and glory." Never, perhaps, are their graces more lively, or the ground of their assurance more clear, than in these seasons of sorrow. They complain, indeed, of the diversified power of indwelling sin. But their very complaints are the evidence of the mighty working of indwelling grace. For what is it but the principle of faith, that makes unbelief their burden? What but hope, that struggles with their tears? What but love, that makes their coldness a grief? What but humility, that causes them to loathe their pride? What but the secret spring of thankfulness, that shows them their unthankfulness, and shames them for it? And, therefore, the very depth of "that heaviness which melts their souls" away, is the exhibition of the strength of God's work within, upholding them in perseverance of conflict to the end. Would not the believer then, when eyeing in his heaviest moments the most prosperous condition of the ungodly, say, "Let me not eat of their dainties?" Far better, and, we may add, far happier, is godly sorrow than worldly joy. In the midst of his misery, the Christian would not exchange his hope in the gospel—though often obscured by unbelief, and clouded by fear—for all "the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them." "If the heart knows his own bitterness, a stranger does not intermeddle with his joy." Yet the bitterness is keenly felt. Sin displeases a tender and gracious Father. It has "pierced" the heart that loves him; and shed the blood that saves him. It grieves the indwelling Comforter of his soul. God expects to see him a mourner; and he feels he has reason enough to mourn, "My soul melts for heaviness."
But this cry of distress is sometimes that of the child under his Father's needful chastisement. The world is dethroned, but not extirpated, in the heart. Much dross is yet to be removed. The sources of the too attractive earthly joy must be embittered: and now it is that the discipline of the cross forces the cry, "My soul melts for heaviness." Yet in the midst of heaviness, the child of God cannot forget that he is loved—that he is saved; and the recollection of this sovereign mercy makes his tears of godly sorrow, tears of joy.
But this melting heaviness has not wrought its work, until it has bowed us before the throne of grace with the pleading cry of faith—Strengthen me! For do we stand by the strength of our own resolutions or habits of grace? Unless the Lord renew His supply from moment to moment, all is frail and withering. But what burden or difficulty is too great for Almighty strength? "Fear not, you worm Jacob; you shall thresh the mountains, and beat them small." And especially is our success assured, when the plea is drawn, as it is repeatedly in this Psalm—according to Your word. For what does that word assure us?, "As Your days, so shall Your strength be." "Will He plead against me"—said Job, "with His great power? No! but He will put strength in me." Thus David found it in his own case: "In the day when I cried, You answered me, and strengthened me with strength in my soul." Thus also to the Apostle was the promise given and fulfilled: "My grace is sufficient for you; for My strength is made perfect in weakness." And is not "the God of Israel" still "he who gives strength and power to His people?" still the same "faithful God, who will not suffer them to be tempted above that they are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that they may be able to bear it?"
When we are most sensible of our utter helplessness, and most simple in our reliance upon Divine strength, then it is, that the "soul melting for heaviness," is most especially upheld and established. "Heaviness in the heart of man makes it stoop; but a good word makes it glad." And how reviving is that "good word" of the Gospel, which proclaims the Savior anointed to "give the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness," and gifted with "the tongue of the learned, that he might know how to speak a word in season unto him that is weary!" And no less encouraging is it to view Him "melting for heaviness" "sore amazed, and very heavy" under the accumulated weight of imputed guilt; learning by this bitter discipline, "in that He Himself suffered being tempted, to support them that are tempted." Yet was He, like His faithful servant, strengthened according to His Father's word, in the moment of his bitterest agony, by the agency of His own creation. And this faithful support, given to the Head, is the seal and pledge of what every member in every trouble will most assuredly enjoy. "As the sufferings of Christ abound in His people, so their consolation also abounds by Christ." The blessed word will supply all their need—life for their quickening, light for their direction, comfort for their enjoyment, strength for their support, "Strengthen me according to Your word."
Lord, may I ever be kept from despondency—regarding it as sinful in itself, dishonorable to Your name, and weakening to my soul; and though I must "needs be sometime in heaviness through manifold temptations," yet let the power of faith be in constant exercise, that I may be able to expostulate with my soul, "Why are you cast down, O my soul? and why are you disturbed within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God."
"My soul melts for heaviness." He was dissolving away in tears. The solid strength of his constitution was turning to liquid, as if molten by the furnace-heat of his afflictions. Heaviness of soul is a killing thing, and when it abounds, it threatens to turn life into a long death, in which a man seems to drop away in a perpetual drip of grief. Tears are the distillation of the heart; when a man weeps he wastes away his soul. Some of us know what great heaviness means, for we have been brought under its power again and again, and often have we felt ourselves to be poured out like water, and near to being like water spilt upon the ground, never again to be gathered up. There is one good point in this downcast state, for it is better to be melted with grief than to be hardened by impenitence.
"Strengthen me according unto your word." He had found out an ancient promise that the saints shall be strengthened, and here he pleads it His hope in his state of depression lies not in himself, but in his God; if he may be strengthened from on high he will yet shake off his heaviness and rise to joy again. Observe how he pleads the promise of the word, and asks for nothing more than to be dealt with after the recorded manner of the Lord of mercy. Had not Hannah sung, "He shall give strength unto his King, and exalt the horn of his anointed"? God strengthens us by infusing grace through his word: the word which creates can certainly sustain. Grace can enable us to bear the constant fret of an abiding sorrow, it can repair the decay caused by the perpetual tear-drip, and give to the believer the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Let us always resort to prayer in our desponding times, for it is the surest and shortest way out of the depths. In that prayer let us plead nothing but the word of God; for there is no plea like a promise, no argument like a word from our covenant God.
Note how David records his inner soul-life. In verse 20 he says, "My soul breaks"; in verse 25, "My soul cleaves unto the dust"; and here, "My soul melts." Further on, in verse 81, he cries, "My soul faints"; in 109, "My soul is continually in my hand"; in 167, "My soul has kept your testimonies"; and lastly, in 175, "Let my soul live." Some people do not even know that they have a soul, and here is David all soul. What a difference there is between the spiritually living and the spiritually dead!