Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. ~ Psalm 103:1-5
Do you ever come to Scripture in desperation for inspiration, for hope, for light and you find yourself reading and rereading a passage and in your mind all it translates into is “blah, blah, blah, blah, wah, wah, wah”? Right now you may be shaking your head, “No”, but inside it’s bobbing up and down in affirmation because you know exactly what I am talking about but don’t think you can or should admit it. You read the opening lines of “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me” and the only thing that comes to mind is, “there’s not much in me at the moment.” Hmmmm. I get it. I truly do. That was my experience today as I found my mind overtaken by hostile thoughts clamouring for attention and demanding focus.
Let me encourage you to take a breath and exhale. It’s ok. God still loves you. God still sees you. God is still there to provide for you…in fact, He’s never left you. So let me invite you to take a moment out of your busy mind, pause, and then read the above quote again from King David, Psalmist extraordinaire, and then come back to keep reading…
There…now…go back and read it again…slowly…take your time! It’s ok, I promise! Life will still be here when you are done reading.
The first two lines really do resonate with my internal desires that come from the new heart God has given me. I DO want to bless the Lord and I do NOT want to forget His benefits that He provides through His presence. Let me do a quick breakdown just to affirm you with God’s love…
A trademark of God’s love is to forgive us and set us free in that forgiveness. We can become obsessed with what appears to be our internal struggles. We can whip ourselves to a bloody pulp and still come out feeling like we haven’t punished ourselves enough. But look at the Lord! He has forgiven ALL our internal twisted DNA. In fact, in Christ we are completely free! It’s our flesh memory that keeps putting up the suggestions of how to handle life like we had PRE-Christ. God forgives us and has freed us!
David writes that God heals all our diseases and I’ll admit this is a real head-scratcher. Has God really healed ALL of our diseases? What about cancer and mental illness, COVID and heart-disease? Is the Psalmist being truthful or is he simply living in a land of make-believe-desires where he is stating what he WANTS God to do and be? Honestly, I don’t have any answers for you here BUT I will say that God did, does, and will continue to miraculously heal people. I don’t know why He doesn’t heal everyone but we see in scripture that God’s heart DOES break when he sees suffering. We also see that He can use suffering to draw people to Him, to rely on Him, to walk alongside of Him and to experience His love even in the midst of hurt. God does not derive a twisted pleasure in your suffering but He will walk alongside of you and can provide strength for you. I know…it’s a jagged pill to swallow and only God knows His reasoning…but God does love you and is not weak. He IS powerful to heal…I don’t know who you are or what you are going through but even now I am praying for each person who reads this to find peace and clarity regarding God and His love for them.
God redeems people’s lives from the pit. Pits are dark and their walls can be hard to climb. In fact, pits often are impossible to get out of and have very little light. God can lift you from the pit you are in. God can provide light. I like that David writes that God “redeems your life from the pit.” When I read this my first go-to thought is “depression.” Depression is a pit like no other that I’ve seen. No one else around you can truly know what you are going through but God does. I’d like to think that at times the way that God redeems our life from the pit is Him climbing down into the pit with us. He sits with us in the dark and grows the light for us to see…then He becomes the lifting hands that pushes and pulls us up and out of it. I pray that you would speak out to Him and experience His presence and strength if you find yourself in a pit that seems impossible to get out of.
The next section is an incredible picture! God CROWNS US with steadfast love and mercy — WOW! I love it! Think about wearing a crown! It emotes such a picture of endowing power upon someone! A CROWN! It’s on display for everyone and it empowers us to live boldly with freedom and security! We have received God’s STEADFAST love and mercy! His love doesn’t change. His view of us remains unaltered! We cannot earn His love. HE is the one who crowns US! We cannot increase His love through behaviour modification or performance. His mercy is bestowed without us needing to deserve it or win it or work for it. HEY! God sees YOU and loves YOU and it is full-out, passionate, down to His core, complete, unreserved, decadent love. God WANTS you! He lifts you up and out of the pit crowning your head so you can walk with head held-high. It doesn’t matter whether or not anyone else thinks you deserve love or mercy, GOD DOES! I know this speaks so loudly to my own heart and its inability to fully grasp this truth but the closer I get to it, the more peace and joy I find…that someone loves ME and wants ME and redeems ME…
And with all of this, all of these benefits of God, He satisfies us with these GOOD THINGS and it really does renew one’s strength. To know God, the Creator of the universe, the King of kings, wants to provide satisfaction in life through His presence with us means we can not only endure but flourish. Our strength, once sapped through the challenges of life and the possible drain of others around us, can not only be renewed but experience the revitalization of youth that enables us to fly high above the troubles grasping at us trying to drag us back down to earth. I LOVE watching little kids play…their energy is insane. I know I used to be an active little boy and God bless the adults that tried to harness and put up with my energy. This idea of youthful energy harnessed is one most of us adults can only dream of recapturing. Yet, here we see, God comes alongside and through providing satisfaction and security, brings renewed strength.
Then we are compared to having the lightness and flight of an eagle. An eagle flies high above the land carried upon slipstreams of air currents. It actually doesn’t take them a lot of energy to keep themselves travelling in the air…they just read the currents and use them to float above the earth where they have a clear vision of the land below. I read on the internet (so it must be true) that, “while most humans have 20/20 vision, eagles are blessed with an astounding 20/5 vision. That means that what looks sharp and clear to us at 5 feet is just as clear to an eagle from 20 feet away.” (www.allaboutvision.com) I think when we live in the strength God provides we do gain clarity of sight: clarity regarding what is most important and what is not; what should be priorities and what should not; what is dragging us down and what is not; what we need for life and what we do not. Boy oh boy do I desire that type of clarity in life.
Those were my reflections on this passage as I sought some grounding and encouragement from God’s Word. Sometimes when a person expounds on a scripture passage like this, we can find “Christianese” dialogue…if you felt that way when reading this I truly do apologize. It is NOT my intent to simply spew out terms and phrases that are unhelpful. I am working my way through understanding and applying God’s word to my life just as you are. These are just my thoughs and hopes as I apply my faith. I WANT to experience the full blessing of God in my life. Actually, I NEED to! These have been difficult days and I really NEED God to do exactly as He says He will — to love me exactly as He promises He will and wants to.
Therefore, I will bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me…I will remember His benefits that He gives to His children…I will grasp onto His hand and rely on Him, that His grip on me is ever stronger than my grip could ever be on Him. I truly do pray that this time together has given you some peace.
Keep it real — Love God — Love people — live with freedom!