It’s very tempting to look back at 2020 and see only the hardship, trouble and scarcity of it. There has been plenty of that, for sure. Perhaps it is at a time like this that we especially need the wise guidance of passages like Psalm 103:1-5. I’ve often taken leadership teams to this passage at the beginning of trainings I’ve led.
Take your time as you read it. Let the words soak into your thinking patterns and your emotions.
1Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
David begins by reminding his own soul—his deep and true self—that praising God is the most real, right and sane thing we can do. This is one of those beautiful “talk to yourself” passages. The goodness of God is a life-giving focus for our attention.
What percentage of my innermost being is captured by God’s goodness and glory and acknowledging this in wholehearted praise? 20%? 50% (as half-hearted)? 90%? David wants for his whole inner person to receive and respond to God.
The longer I linger with those lines, rehearsing them until they embed themselves in my memory, my soul grows more in simple attention to God with me. The words foster in me what they command of me.
David then reminds himself of a very good reason to offer God praise—remembering all of his benefits. (David actually urges himself not to forget all of God’s benefits). When I am witness to an amazing moment in sports, I often get excited and say so in a loud voice (even if no one is with me!).
When I praise God, I am responding to having seen from the depths of my soul the real goodness and beauty of God. When my praise is thin or shallow, it is may well be a sign that my soul needs to perceive more deeply the depths of God’s goodness and the brightness of his beauty.
And there are so many beautiful benefits that David calls to mind:
God forgives all your sins. All. He doesn’t forgive the big ones and overlook the little ones. He doesn’t forgive all the little ones but hold back if they are too big. God is a Forgiver. God delights in mercy and longs to be gracious. God would much rather have nothing between us than to hold onto distance between us.
God heals all your diseases. God has a bias for healing, but healing doesn’t always look exactly how we’d expect it. God’s healing work often seems focused more on healing the depths of who we are rather than just addressing surface symptoms. God’s presence is a healing place to live. God’s presence is life in a world full of death. God mostly wants to heal our soul. It is distance from God that deepens unwellness. Drawing near to God increases life in us.
God redeems our life. God honors us with love and compassion. God satisfies our desires with good things. God renews our vitality like a soaring eagle inspires us. So much good to remember. So much good to give thanks for. So much good to cheer about!