1Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and do not forget all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good as long as you live
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6 The Lord works vindication
and justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far he removes our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion for his children,
so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
14 For he knows how we were made;
he remembers that we are dust.
15 As for mortals, their days are like grass;
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
obedient to his spoken word.
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
his ministers that do his will.
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
One of my favorite things about the psalms is its unified language that pulls from the unified human experience. They grant us the space we need to be honest with God while providing the language we need to describe situations that are often indescribable. However, this language is not just for us as individuals. The prayers and songs that make up the Book of Psalms set us on common ground with all of humanity. It is a deep, constant reminder that our experiences are bound up with one another through God. Our cries and the psalmists’ cries are one. Our blessings and the psalmists’ blessings are one.
This psalm recounts all the ways God has shown up in the bleakest of circumstances. David, the psalm’s author, tells the history of Israel—a history completely wrapped up in God’s desire for a thriving humanity. The people of Israel were well acquainted with bleak, impossible circumstances, and maintaining their vision of a God who shows up in these places is a unifying action for them. This psalm meets us at the cross-section between brutal honesty and deep gratitude to the God who walks with us in all circumstances.
When we combine our honesty with gratitude, beautiful things happen. And when we combine our honesty with gratitude in community, we bless the Lord.
I was in a spiritual formation group with people from all over the country. We met every other week in an online video call and were assigned the task of writing our own psalms. Our psalms were all over the board. Some were psalms of joyous praise, others gave thanks, and some were painful cries of lament. During our very last video session, each of us read our psalms to the entire group, one at a time. Hearing my friends thank God, praise God, and cry out to God for help all at once was certainly a blessing to me, but I have to believe that it was also a blessing to God. Though we were distant, we were not isolated. And it wasn’t the technology that brought us together. It was our common humanity, our honesty, and our faithfulness to God that showed us that no matter the circumstances, no matter how distant we are from one another, we are all one in Christ. In one voice, in one faithful community, our souls bless the Lord.
We are endlessly grateful for your presence with us in the strangest circumstances—circumstances that we never imagined we could be in. In the midst of all this uncertainty and anxiety about the future, grant us the courage to come to you in full honesty about our fear. At the same time, remind us of your faithfulness to your people in the past, in the present, and in whatever is to come. We love you. We trust you. We thank you. Amen.