"When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negeb!. Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him." Psalm 126
My default is to rehearse all the things I’ve done wrong, that have gone wrong, or that could go wrong. I have a strong inclination to worry and stress over things I cannot control, believing the lie my worry will somehow “fix things.” Rather than nurturing a spirit of thankfulness and peace in my life and heart, I tend to encourage a spirit of constant worry.
In keeping with the theme of this week’s Collect and passages, today’s psalm challenges us to focus on who God is and what he has done. Most likely written by the prophet Ezra, this Psalm rehearses the amazing things God did for the people of Israel and then asks him to continue. Throughout the Old Testament, we see Israel split into two kingdoms and then fall into captivity of the Assyrians and the Babylonians. After seventy years of captivity, God helped restore and rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the temple. The prophet Ezra was a key player in helping rebuild the temple.
Ezra could have focused on all Israel’s past wrongs and the pain they’d endured because of their sin. He had the option of singing about how wrong everything might go in the future. But Ezra chose to lead God’s people in a song of thanksgiving for all the ways God had blessed them. He chose to focus on who God is and ask that he continue to bless them and restore their fortunes.
Ezra and his psalm don’t teach us to ignore problems or pretend they never happened, just like Paul’s story doesn’t teach us to pretend like we never committed sin. However, Ezra reinforces this idea of remaining focused on our true goal: Christ. God doesn’t want or ask us to live under the weight of the past, nor does he require us to carry our future as a burden. We are meant to rest in his loving grace, nurturing thanksgiving, and peace in our hearts, and move forward in doing whatever he has called us to do.
How do you nurture a spirit of thanksgiving in your life? If you struggle as I do, one way I’ve found helpful is to sit down for a few minutes without any distractions, and reflect on what God has done and what has gone well. Once I’ve taken time to rehearse the blessings God has given me, it’s much easier to hand over my worries to him and focus on what he’s called me to do. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Follow the ancient way of the Psalms and find the life God has for you. A model for vibrant worship, the Psalms provide practical wisdom to traverse the circuitous path of life with trust and hope. Pilgrim’s Path: A Study of the Psalms traces our spiritual walk with God—from discovery and delight, through doubt and disappointment, into joyful confidence. Whether used for individual or group study, Pilgrim’s Path is for everyone who seeks to know and love God more and find life in him.
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