From My Soul Waits
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. (v. 2)
Psalm 103 begins and ends with the exact same phrase: “Bless the Lord, O my soul!” The repeated phrase is like two bookends that sum up all that is contained in a long shelf of texts and manuscripts that stand between them. This is a call to worship rooted in specific events and experiences of God’s blessings.
Counting one’s blessings: Psalm 103 conveys the depth of meaning contained in this very ordinary and often overlooked spiritual exercise. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once reminded his readers that, in times of difficulty, when we were tempted to give in to our worst inclinations, the enemy of our souls has only one goal in mind: “Satan does not here fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God.” The path to renewed faith and joy often leads through the memory, and if there is a central theme to Psalm 103 it is this: remember.
It seems that the psalmist has had some kind of personal experience of God’s mercy and healing and, as he calls to mind the love he has received, his gratitude overflows into song. He invokes everything in his being to praise the one who has saved him. But this is not enough. The author is but one person in the midst of a whole people who have experienced the compassion and goodness of God. His compelling instruction to “forget not all God’s benefits,” (v. 2), is meant for them as well. In fact, it is meant for all of humanity, for all those whose very breath is a sign of the kindness of their creator. By the end of the psalm, “all that is within me,” (v. 1), expands to “in all places of his dominion,” (v. 22). There is not a single corner within the human soul nor within the vast domain of creation that has not known, and therefore should not remember, the “steadfast love of the Lord,” (v. 17).
The human memory is both fickle and selective. Too often it is the unjust and hurtful experiences that linger longest in our minds, taking up valuable space in our memory that could otherwise be occupied with thoughts of God and of his blessings. As if to drive away these interlopers, the psalmist sounds almost urgent as he recounts the innumerable ways in which God shows his care: forgiving sin, healing sickness, saving from destruction, satisfying need, renewing strength. Call to mind the mercy of God, insists Psalm 103. In other words, remember the God who remembers you.
From The Fathers
What, I ask, do we think cannot be forgiven us when the Lord forgives all our iniquities? Or what do we think cannot be healed in us, when the Lord heals all our diseases? Therefore, let no one despairing of the physician remain in his infirmity; let no one, downplaying the mercy of God, waste away in iniquities. The apostle calls out that “Christ died for the ungodly,” (Romans 5:6). (Fulgentius of Ruspe)
Today, Father, I call to mind these blessings from your hand:
For each of them, I bless you, and praise you, and thank you.
And I hold them in my heart – like sentinels of truth – to be called upon at any moment,
to remind me of your goodness and to lead me to praise once again.