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Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. – Psalm 111:1 (NRSV)
Until this past year, I thought a psalm like Psalm 111 had to be written by someone at the top of their game. Filled with praise and thanks for God’s wondrous deeds, the psalmist revels in God’s honor and majesty, grace and mercy, proclaiming that “the works of God’s hands are faithful and just, all God’s precepts are trustworthy.”
Such praise and thanksgiving could only come from an experience of overwhelming abundance and security, to my thinking. The psalmist knew God was good, because life was good. All of life was good—health, relationships, job, even the state of the nation. Why else would the psalmist thank God with their whole heart and in public, no less?
But the past year turned that interpretation on its head. I wonder now if the psalmist was instead in the midst of their own worst hard time—a pandemic perhaps, or economic upheaval, a prolonged drought, national unrest, the loss of a job, or all the above. A time like our time.
Perhaps the psalmist realized the only way to get through that worst hard time was to remember—to recall God’s holiness and majesty, the awesomeness of God’s works. Maybe the writer realized that praising God for being faithful and just, even if the world wasn’t, was an act of power on the psalmist’s part.
It still is.
Help us, Lord, to give you thanks with all our hearts. May we know the power of praise to overcome fear and despair, that we might trust you and love your world once again. Amen.