The Joy of My Heart

Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. . . . Your decrees are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. (Psalm 119:105,111)

I stand within a tradition that understands God’s Word – God’s Living Word – as active at the intersection of reading the Scriptures and guidance by the Holy Spirit. Just reading the Bible and applying our own human interpretation doesn’t make it God’s Word. That’s often where we go terribly wrong, with horrendous, even global, consequences. But when the Spirit shows up and works within our minds and hearts as we read, it becomes the Living Word of God, meant uniquely for us in each time and place. The Bible itself is not to be worshiped; it’s only a vehicle, when we let God’s presence come through.

When I was in my early teens, a preacher once referred to “the amazing coincidence of the Bible” – how it speaks afresh every time, when we read it while opening ourselves to the work of the Spirit.

I know, easier to say than to recognize in real life! I’ve never forgotten that, however, and it has held true all my life. As one minister colleague said years ago, “It’s not the parts of the Bible that I don’t understand that bother me so much – it’s the parts that I do understand!”

For me, reading the Bible isn’t a matter of looking for answers to life’s questions (as if I had the right questions to ask, anyway!) or of pulling out inspiring stories to live by. There’s a lot of blood and guts in the Bible, and loads of times in it when people blurred the focus of what God had in mind. Back then just as now, people struggled mightily to figure out what God was doing in their midst, and to get their lives on the right side of things. The deeper I allow myself to dive into Scripture texts, the more I feel God’s Word is getting through. . . .

I love how the psalmist says God’s Word “is my heritage forever.” It is a present reality, whenever I dare to sit with some Bible passage and ask the Spirit to strengthen me through the Scripture. Such open-to-God moments are not always comfortable, but they are truly “the joy of my heart!”

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub