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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, November 23, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 138

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
   before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
   and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness;
   for you have exalted your name and your word above everything.
On the day I called, you answered me,
   you increased my strength of soul.

All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord,
   for they have heard the words of your mouth.
They shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
   for great is the glory of the Lord.
For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly;
   but the haughty he perceives from far away.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
   you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies;
you stretch out your hand,
   and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
   your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands. (NRSV)

Psalm 138 begins with “I will praise you, O God, with my whole heart.” This passage led me to ponder what it means to praise God with one’s whole heart. I remembered a beautiful October day in northern New Mexico. I was on retreat and hiking in the mountains behind the monastery. The glory of God’s creation, as well as a felt presence of God’s love, brought a profound and spontaneous outpouring of gratitude and praise.

Then I began to wonder if praising God in the midst of beauty and in times of well-being constituted praise of God with my whole heart? An interview with John McCain came to mind. The reporter asked him if he was afraid. He replied that when a fear comes up, he says to himself, “Wait a minute, old man. You’ve had a wonderful life, filled with good friends, loving family, travel, and meaningful work. I then feel a deep sense of joy, and I am grateful for the life I have had.” In my view this reflects praising God with your whole heart in the midst of trouble.

At the end of Psalm 138, David asks God to “not abandon the work of your hands.” Human beings understand abandonment—the abandonment of self, of significant others, the multitude of losses that lead to the abandonment of hope. To praise God with one’s whole heart at least means going to the Lord with all of it, the good and the bad and the ugly circumstances of life.

It is in the “full catastrophe” of life that we learn of God’s enduring love. We are never left alone. Regardless of what happens, the good Lord will fulfill God’s purpose for us. This vision invites us to praise God with our whole heart.

Good Lord, lead us to an understanding of your great love. Set this knowledge in our hearts so that we may praise you with profound, heart-felt gratitude. So be it. Amen.

Written by Susan Cornelius, Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being

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