My thoughts (David Zier):
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all [God’s] benefits” (Psalm 103:2).
Psalm 103 is a Psalm of Thanksgiving. I thank God and have gratitude for many things, but I never focused on this particular verse before. It is easy for me to thank God for various things in my life, but have I truly given thanks about all of God’s benefits?
It seems so easy to compartmentalize things in life and to focus on giving thanks for our family and friends, for our source of employment and income, for our dwelling for shelter, for the clothes on our back, for the food that keeps us from being hungry, and for progress when some peace and justice initiative is seen through; and that is all good stuff. But on a certain level, when I read verse 2 of today’s psalm, that all rings hollow for me. Let me explain.
For one, it is so easy to get caught up in the world and in what the world wants us to be concerned about, to obtain, and to hold on to. This has a way of making its way into our thanksgiving to God. Not that this is a bad thing, because we can’t compartmentalize God into certain pieces of real life, and not in others. But God is telling me that this psalm is going deeper.
For example, what about circumstances and family situations that have been difficult? Does God want us to dig in our heels and not be compromising, or loving, or forgiving? I have many family situations that have been stressful over the years. In 2006 I told my family I was going to seminary. It was not received well by some. I live in a family that is Protestant on one side, and Jewish on the other. Neither side has ever consistently attended worship over the long haul, that I am aware of (excluding myself), so the reaction surprised me. The reaction that did not surprise me was: “What! You’re going to give up being a medical engineering consultant!”
When this happened, I was not sure what to do or what to say. When I turned to God and prayed about it, the response was simple. Just be who you are, show love and compassion and forgiveness as Jesus taught, and just be yourself. There is no need to justify what you are doing, or to convince others you are on the right path, or to change minds. Just be. Of course, that is not always simple because the urge is there to pounce! But no, I did not.
This is one of those moments that I recall when I give thanks to God for all the benefits. This benefit goes way beyond the family situation that I just explained. As I can see how I have changed and how I have internalized more and more the teachings of Jesus, it helps me to remember that God is with me, that my peace does not hinge on what others think, and that God opens me up to be more self-aware about myself. As I continue in my transformation on my journey, being thankful to God for ALL THE BENEFITS is much bigger than any simple thanksgiving prayer I can think of. But remember, thanking God for all things, the small stuff and the big stuff, is all about praise, and what it does to build up our soul. This was just an angle that was in the back of my mind that came to the forefront as I read this psalm.
Thought for the day: How has God benefited your life? How have you transformed into a better person? Give thanks and praise!
We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.