Sighing is the ouch of a pinched soul. It wants to breathe and expand as a spiritual lung. But there is constriction, whether within, or without. It can be caused by sin and guilt. It can be caused by sadness and sorrow. It can be caused by an obscuring of hope and by present difficulties. It is the soul's effort to relax and rest, but it can't.
Faith rests. It rests in Jesus. It rests in the promises of God and the comfort of the Spirit. A pinched soul is struggling with these things. It has not necessarily abandoned these things. But such things as pain and doubt are running a serious interference.
Romans 8:23 reads: “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” The pinched soul wants resolution. But it has to wait. Things are not as they should be. So in this mean-time, this cruel time, we wait.
One more thought on this word, addressed to "leaders." Hebrews 13:17 says that leaders of the local body of believers are to do their duty "with joy and not with grief (or sighing). They are instructed not to allow their souls to narrow due to pains and doubts. They must not lose their rest, their trust, their comfort. How could they lead?
A throbbing heart is a heart not-at-home. It is on the road; on the run. A throbbing heart is a hunted heart. It is a hiding heart. Powlison says that some are tempted to "tower," that is, to act as though they are bigger than they are. Others are tempted to "cower," to go into hiding in an attempt to disappear. Both are wrong. Better to have a big God, and to rest safely under His wings, growing and fulfilling service and responsibility under His care.
Jeremiah 14:18 has an interesting rendition of this trading term - "gone roving." The priest and the prophet are either casting about, looking for something to do, or for somewhere to hide. They seem to have lost their vocation. They are unsettled.
The heart's vocation is to center on God, whether you call it waiting or exulting or loving or listening. The vocation of the believer is to believe. Jesus says in John 14:1, "Don't let your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me." But the pinched soul is accompanied by a throbbing heart that is more aware of its troubles than its God or her Savior.
Failing strength is the human condition. We are finite, and we fatigue. Except for one thing: our strength is to be in the Lord. Flesh is short-lived, but the Spirit is an inexhaustible and inextinguishable fire. This poor sinner of sighing soul and throbbing heart and flagging strength desperately needs the buoyancy of the Spirit. And He is there; right here, ready to lift and restore. Confess your sins. Bow in the dust, and let Him bear you up, and breathe heavenly air into your soul and supply firmness and solidity to your heart and an impossible strength to your mind and will.
The psalmist is at the cusp of something great. No, not in the next couple of verses, but before long, the light will shine through, and something surprising will happen. Do not give in to the darkness. Do not abandon hope. Take a breath, drop to your knees, and let your requests be made known to God. This is the beginning of rest; this is your home and your strength.