Have you ever made a 'gratitude list'? You know, one of those exercises in which you list everything you should be grateful for? It's a good exercise, of course, to remember what's good about life. But it can go deeper. Here's how.
Psalm 136 takes it beyond a gratitude list, to a list of some times God 'showed up' in Israel's history. It starts off with praise for his many acts of creation,(verses 1-9) and moves
on to his acts in bringing Israel out of Egypt (verses 10-16). Then the writer names two kings who stood against Israel, and their land being given to Israel instead (verses 17-22). Remembering those acts was for the writer, and his hearers, like remembering "here's how we all got here" and the major moments of life thereafter. Finally, the psalm closes with more praises to God, including "he gives food to every living thing" and encouraging us to "give thanks to the God of heaven." All in all, a good list that reminded Israel to pay attention to God's gracious acts for them.
In between each of these phrases is the repetitive phrase "His faithful love endures forever" -- and wouldn't you call that the conclusion of the whole psalm and exercise of remembering?
On a hike, instead of just trudging up the trail, climbing over boulders and streams, sometimes we are blessed by stopping to look back and see how far we've come, and at the magnificent vista spread out behind. The perspective we gain by looking back down the trail helps us gather strength for the next part of the climb, and to be grateful for the experience. It's just the same in life: if all we do is labor over obstacles and sorrows, work and bill-paying, we lose the full perspective.
So here's an exercise that might be useful to you. Using the same format as this psalm, how about writing out some of the many times the Lord has rescued you or brought you into a new opportunity or way of seeing him? If you tend to think first of the crises of pain and loss, go ahead and list those, then try asking the Lord in meditation, "Where were you in that trial? How did you show your love and power to me in the middle of my crisis? Where did you bless me through or in spite of the circumstances?" For instance, instead of "I grew up in a big family, and had to wear hand-me-down clothes" I could write "I was blessed with generous cousins who shared their jeans and shirts with me, out of God's love."
For each one of these times in our lives, we can then write, "His faithful love endures forever," Making such a list can help us realize that our God, and the life he has given us, have been better to us than we realize. For me, it's been an exercise in blessing and gratitude. Why don't you try this too?You can take it in stages, one piece at a time, or dedicate part of a day to being reminded that "His faithful love endures forever." I believe you'll come away thinking differently, like I have.