The Psalmist says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (119:11 TNIV) In recent days, I have found much comfort in words of scripture that have come to mind. Bible verses memorized long ago, as well as ones recently brought to my attention by friends, have strengthened and encouraged me as I live through some challenging days. Those words have kept me connected to God, mindful of God’s presence, and aware of God’s promise to always be with me.
How do words get hidden in the heart? The most apparent answer is that they are memorized. A verse written on an index card, continually read and reread, will eventually plant itself in the mind. Repeating the verse from memory enough times will secure it there.
Yet, the heart language of the Psalmist seems to indicate something more than mental activity. The words are not hidden in the mind, but in the heart. The heart, in the Psalmist’s anatomy of prayer, is located deeper in the interior of a person. Hidden words capable of keeping a person connected to God, and not separated from God, find their place by something more than speaking and repeating, writing and rewriting.
To sin against God is to be separated from God — out of fellowship with God. The word that finally brings us into fellowship with God, and removes our separation from God, is the Word made flesh. It is not so much the word we hide in our hearts, but the Word we hide ourselves in, that connects us to God and keeps us connected to God.
Together the words of God that we hide in our hearts, and the Word of God in which we hide ourselves, move us beyond talking to God and thinking about God, to being with God. The heart does not think about the function it performs. It does what it does without thinking. Breathing is not a decision we make; we just do it. Neither does the heart decide to pump blood through our bodies; it just does it.
I wonder if the Psalmist had such a thought in mind when he designated the heart as the hiding place for God’s word. Was he thinking of situations and circumstances that would be so taxing that the mind would be too stressed to provide comfort, consolation and strength? The mind gets busy at times like that, searching for solutions, solving problems, and mapping out alternatives. Trying to figure out why something happened can at times be such a frustratingly large question that the mind has little energy for anything more. Yet, the heart continues to beat, bringing oxygen and supplying blood; so words hidden there do not depend on our ability to recall them. They come to us like our next breath, and they sustain us without our even being aware of the life they give to us.
In those moments, we are freed from the illusion that we are in control of our lives, and that our connection with God is the result of our mental effort, intellectual activity, or even thoughtful reflection. Rather, we find ourselves sustained by a merciful God, and there we truly find rest.