Bless the Lord, O My Soul: A Meditation on Psalm 103
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.
He forgives all your sins
And heals all your infirmities;
He redeems your life from the grave
And crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;
He satisfies you with good things,
And your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.
The LORD executes righteousness
And judgment for all who are oppressed.
He made his ways known to Moses
And his works to the children of Israel.
The LORD is full of compassion and mercy,
Slow to anger and of great kindness.
Whenever I hear the opening words of Psalm 103 I think of my grandmother, who loved me unconditionally. I have reflected often in recent years on those individuals whose influence helped make me who I am, and she is certainly at the top of the list. My grandfather died unexpectedly when my grandmother was 27 and within weeks of giving birth to her second child, Elizabeth. They had been sweethearts since childhood. Left a widow in a frontier town in Indian Territory, far from her family in Texas, my grandmother emerged from darkest grief a year later spiritually rescued and renewed, determined to lead others to the love of Jesus. An inspired teacher, she did so by teaching Bible classes for over fifty years. Bereft by tragedy at such an early age, her life could have been hobbled by fear. Instead, Psalm 103 inspired her to live. It became her mantra. Its message can inspire us to live more fully, as well.
Most of us, most of the time, would like to feel closer to God and more open to God’s love. We know we can do so through prayer, but we don’t know how to start. Each morning many who hunger for this intimacy hit the floor running as soon as waking, trying to accomplish all the things that need to be done and finding no room for prayer. Others are hindered by sloth, a spiritual paralysis that blocks desires. But what if we decided to give God just two minutes at the beginning of the day? What if our only prayer was “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,” and we ended it right there and sat with it a moment or two, reflecting on how good God has been to us. I suspect if we did and made a habit of it, we would draw closer to God. We would also discover we had more than enough time to do the things we need to do, and we would approach the day with a brighter outlook.
One of the traditional ways of developing a spiritual life focused on God is through a Rule of Life. If you lack one or yours has become stale and lifeless, why not start afresh with the first eight verses of Psalm 103 as a focus. So much of our friendship with God involves remembering. By that I don’t mean golden-tinged nostalgic fabrication, but truthfully bringing to memory all that God has done and continues to do for us. Psalm 103 specifically mentions benefits, sins forgiven, infirmities healed, restoration of life, the blessings of mercy and loving-kindness, liberation from bondage, and God’s kindness and compassion. Reflecting on specific ways God has broken into our lives to love us will prompt in us a response of gratitude and joy, and a sense that we are, as another psalm describes it, “the apple of God’s eye.”