I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
2 I will bow down toward your holy temple
and will praise your name
for your unfailing love and your faithfulness,
for you have so exalted your solemn decree
that it surpasses your fame.
3 When I called, you answered me;
you greatly emboldened me.
4 May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord,
when they hear what you have decreed.
5 May they sing of the ways of the Lord,
for the glory of the Lord is great.
6 Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
though lofty, he sees them from afar.
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
with your right hand you save me.
8 The Lord will vindicate me;
your love, Lord, endures forever-
do not abandon the works of your hands.
Ever since I started at Occidental College, I have baked for my students. The first few years they were so appreciative, even if it was just brownies from a mix. In the past two years my students haven’t been as excited. Noticing this, I asked if they had a preference – would they like brownies, cookies, rice crispy treats, scones? They replied that everything I was bringing they could just get at the cafeteria, so they didn’t really care. As the year went on I often baked remembering how happy former students would be when I walked in a loaf of banana bread. If it was wrapped in a cloth, still warm from the oven, they would lose their minds. Last year my students would lift the cloth with boredom, one time even complaining it was still hot. While they always ate what I baked, I don’t think they ever thanked me. “Why am I doing this?” was a question that began to rattle in my head. I began to feel that my baking gone from an expression of care to feeding an entitlement?
David wrote Psalm 138 as a prayer of thanksgiving, something we all too often forget to do. It’s easy to jump from crises to crises without pausing to thank God for yanking us out of the previous harm’s way. In his Psalm, he thanks God for hearing and answering his prayers. He thanks God for the many times God has rescued him and saved his life. He praises God for his wisdom and his constant protection. He closes by thanking God for everything God will do for him in the future. David doesn’t write as though this is something God owes him but instead, he knows that life will always be scary as physical, spiritual and emotional enemies will continue to reside close by. He also knows God’s character and love for us will never change. This Psalm challenges us and reminds us that we regularly need to pause and, with a full heart, thank God for everything we have received. When we find ourselves in midst of trouble, this practice can help us move away from fears, anxieties and perhaps even anger that God has allowed us to struggle at all and be reminded that the care God has shown us in the past, trusting that God will provide again in the future.