Psalm 103 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. I took a class in college that required me and a couple of classmates to each memorize and recite a large portion of the psalm. After reflecting on it over and over again, I made a special connection with the words of the psalmist. David cries out to God in the previous psalm (102) and asks that he not hide his face from him in distress, to incline his ear to him and answer speedily when he calls (Psalm 102:1-2). After reviewing the mercies of God toward him and in celebration of his deliverance, David then writes Psalm 103 and seems to speak of the answer to the prayer he writes in Psalm 102.
David reminds me of the depth of disparity in humanity. When I first read his words, I remember immediately relating to his descriptions of depravity. Humans are trapped under the weight of overwhelming sin, we are trapped in a pit of destruction. We are diseased, shamed, and desperate.
I often think of the times that I deny this fact.
I never want to seem weak in the way that David describes himself.
I also often think of the times that society encourages me to deny this fact.
We point to ourselves as the source of success, power, and goodness. Sometimes, there is no reason to “Bless the Lord” like David does in his psalm because we are not crying out for him to pull us out from the pit. We attempt to climb out ourselves, clean up our own messes, make our own way. But, our feeble attempts only sink us deeper.
I once had a friend who committed suicide. Ironically, he was one of my classmates who shared in the task of memorizing and reciting Psalm 103. He was also one of the most joyful people I had ever met; seemingly. I had no reason to ever suspect his desire to take his life. After he died, this Psalm became a memorial of him in my mind. I think of the depravity that must have weighed on him, like David in utter despair. The hopelessness and desperation that we come to feel are so very true. In the times of my despondency, the words of the psalmist gently carry the weight of my despair and remind me of something important: There are two truths that we must come to know. The first is that we are in a state of depravity. I am in sin and wretched despair. The second, Jesus has come to forgive, heal, redeem, crown with love and mercy, and renew. He pulls us from the pit of despair. I have every reason to bless the Lord.
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,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.