These are a few of my favorite things
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 all his benefits:
Who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases;
Who redeemeth thy life from destruction, who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;
Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things, so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
~ PSALM 103:1–5
When one of the pastors at my church took a break from his “regularly scheduled programming” to dive into this psalm of David, I knew it was exactly what I needed.
My brain likes to question my relationship with God, even as my heart knows He’s got me and my lips call Him Abba. Psalm 103 reminds us that God is our Father and understands our weaknesses — and, that He has cast our sin as far as east is from west.
(If you’ve never heard the “east to west” thing explained: You know on a globe when you go north, as far as you can go, and you reach the North Pole, and then you keep going? Once you pass the North Pole and keep going, you’re actually going south. Right? Well, the same is not true east to west. If you keep going east, and keep going east, and keep going east … there is no East Pole. There is no direction change. You can go east forever, and you’ll always be going east. So when God says He’s cast our sin as far from us as east is from west … He means infinitely far. And y’all — He could’ve said north to south. But He didn’t.)
I’m grateful for a God who makes salvation simple. Maybe not easy — not for an overthinking, self-reliant person like me — but simple. All we do is receive. Receive what Christ has done for us: His death that paid for all our sins, His resurrection that gives us new life. If you think you can “do” more than that, or that you can save yourself, God help you.
I have a lot more to be grateful for, too. I typed up a list a page long: everything from family and funny stories to dry cleaning and iridescent nail polish. It’s been a refreshing season lately.
But as some of our November columns point out, life isn’t always fun. The relationship doesn’t always last. The healing doesn’t always come. The job doesn’t always pan out. What do we do then?
I’m not exactly the best person to answer this. I grew up in a Christian home, my parents are still married after 38 years, my immediate family is all alive and living within 20 minutes of me, and I’ve been inconceivably blessed with this magazine. But we all have our trials. They might come from the outside — divorce, death, bankruptcy — or they might come from within.
Either way, I believe suffering Christians can find comfort and clarity in the psalms. “Bless the LORD, O my soul.” Tell your soul what to do, even if you don’t think it’s listening. Say the words even if you don’t think you mean them. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17), and His Word will not return void (Isaiah 55:11).
Sometimes all we can do is repeat a psalm, like applying salve to a wound: This doesn’t fix the problem, but makes it feel a little better as it gradually heals. Other times all we can do is pray — or just groan in the Spirit (Romans 8:26) — and know that God hears us.
And sometimes, yes, it helps to make a list of blessings in your life. The song that pops into my head when I think of this is “My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music.” I rarely feel like Julie Andrews twirling on an Austrian hillside, but it’s often a good idea to name (or sing about) little things that make you smile.
I hope you have a restful Thanksgiving with loved ones, and I hope that whatever season you’re in, you’re able to count some blessings and tell your soul the gospel truth.
Must-reads this month:
• Our feature on Justin and Sarah Dale Harmon’s adoption journey
• Kyle Thompson’s column about a semipermanent injury and unanswered prayers for healing
• Our cover story on Chip Stevens, First Baptist Jackson’s new senior pastor