New Year’s Resolution #5: Being more thankful
Psalm 13 From Lament to Praise
“I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me”
In the midst of adversity, it is easy to complain. When facing ongoing challenges we focus on the problems we encounter and start to grumble about what God has done. The songwriter wrote, “O for a thousand tongues to sing our great redeemer praise,” yet it is much easier to use the one tongue we have to sing the complaints of our life.
At first glance, it seems as if David is singing the song of protest. Known as one of the “Lament Psalms” the song gives voice to the struggles and trials David was facing. This was no mere bad day; David was facing ongoing challenges and enemies that threatened his very life. All this led to a crisis of his faith. When he needed God’s protective intervention, God was hiding from him. Instead of the promises of God being a source of comfort, they became a source of mockery. In Deuteronomy 4:31, God promises that he would not forget the covenant he made with his people, but now God has forgotten him.
But just when we think that David would fall into the pit of despair and lose all faith in God’s salvation, the song takes a sudden turn. The abrupt change in the tone of the Psalm between verses 4 and verse 5 is jolting in its dramatic difference. Having become convinced that his enemies will triumph over him because of God’s neglect, he suddenly reaffirms his trust in the faithful love of God. Just when he is on the brink of complete hopelessness, and his heart seems to be enveloped in sorrow (vs 2), his heart unexpectedly rejoices, and he sings a song of praise and joy (vs 5). What changed? There is nothing in the text that would indicate that his circumstances changed. What changed was his focus. Instead of dwelling upon his misery and adversaries, he riveted his thinking upon the love of God and was reminded of how God had dwelt bountifully with him (vs 6), that God has done abundantly good on his behalf.
Our joy in life is not determined by our circumstances, but by our perspective. We can either become focused upon our problems and hardships or we can remain focused on God’s blessing and goodness. We change our focus when we start to sing the praise of God and start being thankful for all that he has done for us. This is what Paul focuses upon in Philippians 4:6. We often focus upon the first part of the verse in which he commands us to pray rather than be anxious. But we often neglect the second part of the verse which provides the key for changing our outlook and that is to integrate thanksgiving into our prayers. While prayer reminds us of our dependency upon God, thanksgiving reminds us of what God has done and will do. It shifts the focus from the problems we face to the God who sustains.
This last year, with all the challenges we are facing with Covid-19 and the election it is easy to become focused on the problems they brought. With all the negativity in news, we can easily become discouraged and pessimistic. But both David and Paul remind us to be thankful by focusing upon who God is and what he has done. This year spend more time being thankful about what God has done rather than grumbling about the circumstances around us. Then our perspective will change, and we will discover genuine joy, even if the situation around us remains the same.