Walking with Christ in a moment-by-glorious-moment relationship provides benefits that go far beyond anything this world has to offer. Psalm 103 describes some of the benefits we can expect. It begins, "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" (Ps. 103:1-2, ESV).
In the stresses of daily life, it's important to take a break and think about all the benefits of belonging to Christ—all the blessings and the sometimes-forgotten enrichment that God provides for his children.
Verse 3 says that he forgives all our iniquities. As a person who came to Christ early in life (at age four), I did not have time to amass a great number of the more obvious sins. Basically, I accepted Christ out of love for him rather than a need for change and repentance.
Yet my innate nature is sinful, and my life after salvation has certainly been pitted with sins. So each night, I bless the Lord and ask him to forgive the iniquities of the day—the sins of rebellion that I insisted on and the more subtle sins that I've accepted from my culture: gossip, a critical spirit, gluttony of worldly goods. Every night, God is faithful and just to forgive my sins and to gift me again with his righteousness. He provides me with the power of the Holy Spirit so that my life does not have to continue in its sinful patterns.
Another benefit we can depend on is the healing of our diseases (v. 3b). Although God sometimes heals in different ways than we've asked for and on a different timetable, he does heal. One of his names is Yahweh Rophe, the healer. That is who he is as well as part of his job description.
Even though we availed ourselves of medical help, I know that ultimately God healed me from a painful ulcer, and he touched my son's body as well—freeing him from the vicious cells of a stage 3 cancer. And one of my friends found relief after months of depression. God also extends grace by healing us from dark strongholds which threaten our peace and steal our joy. If we allow him entrance into these hidden places, he restores, enriches and miraculously heals. His mercies are new every morning as his touch evaporates our pain and the bondage that can chain our souls to earthly Hades.
God redeems our lives from the pit—from self-centeredness which throws us into the downward spiral of covetousness. He saves us from the pit of depressive disorders that spin our minds downward into the darkest of places. He rescues us as we struggle from the bottomless hell of addictions and the evil attitudes we so readily accept. Christ lifts us out of these pits and presents us to God as pure children—whole and renewed in his sight.
He crowns us with steadfast love and mercy (v. 4b). Steadfast love is the type of affection and compassionate care that we depend on as we grow an intimate relationship with the Savior. He never betrays us, never abandons us, and never forgets our birthdays (physical and spiritual). His mercy covers our mistakes and our human tendencies to focus on our own timelines and goals. Carefully and gently, he points the way back to truth and orders our days, giving us purpose and value.
God satisfies us with good things (v. 5). Besides the obvious meeting of our daily needs, Christ often sends reminders of his presence into our private worlds.
While pregnant with my son, I sat outside in the July heat and begged God for my child's life. After losing two previous babies, I yearned to hold this child, to count tiny fingers and toes, to brush my lips against his baby-soft skin.
God sent a good thing—a monarch butterfly that landed on my extended belly and sat there for an hour, pulsating its wings and staring at me—reminding me that God held my baby's heart in his hands and nothing could deter God's plan for my child. A good thing. A healthy child, born on November 10, 1985.
Most of us live with grocery stores or markets available, with heat on bleak winter mornings, with soft beds that cuddle us through the night like the safety of a cotton womb. When we live without the threat of falling bombs and the painful rumblings of hunger, we can express our thankfulness. We rejoice that we can worship where we choose and open our Bibles in public places. We are thankful when we can drive across town without snipers watching us from the roofs of cement buildings. We sometimes take these good things for granted, but God remembers to send them and waits for us to bless him—and to trust him when any of those things are threatened.
"The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed" (v. 6). He is the vindicator of the teenage girl forced into prostitution to pay off her family's debts. He works through churches, nonprofits, and social agencies to secure freedom for all, regardless of sex, disability, and skin color. He presides over an eternal court and will someday bang his gavel against those who murder, rape, and pillage. He keeps reminding us to seek truth from his Word and serve our communities with the compassion of Christ. He promises justice at the end of time, yet with the same breath, reminds us to forgive and offer the same grace he has offered us.
"The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love" (v. 8). Although mankind deserves to see God's justice in various forms of divine wrath, he gives us time to confess and repent—to turn away from our iniquities and seek the renewing mind of Christ. He places Bible verses in our hearts, worship songs on our lips, and the voices of little children to bring us back to his light. Patience is his character. God in his mercy and grace is slow to anger and abundant with a persevering type of love that forgives and cleanses and forgives again.
"He knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust" (v. 14). As the Creator, he fully comprehends every speck of dust he molded together to make that first man. He recalls with a smile how he sculpted Eve from a rib and presented her to Adam as a companion.
Ever since that first couple, God has planted DNA in women's wombs and created new human beings with the capacity to return his love and change his world. He knows who we are at the core and how long our hearts will continue to beat. He plans each calendar day from the time he plants dimples on our cheeks to the moment he welcomes us home. Even though we are so much weaker than God, he infuses us with his strength and gives us enough energy to feel young again when we serve with the power of his spirit.
God showers us with so many benefits; Psalms could never hold them all. So God continues throughout his book to explain his benefits and to give us examples of people who lived out his call. When we are aware of his presence, we begin to see more and more of his benefits in our daily lives—the black and white finch that delicately pecks at a sunflower seed, the turquoise sunset with a slash of dark orange, God's whispered presence when we feel alone.
The benefits God allows us are numerous. Our task is to remember and to bless the source, to fill our days with gratitude and praise, to turn our eyes away from the struggles of this life, and to remember whose we are.
Then we can join King David's song and bless the Lord with all that is within us—with voice and soul and heart, and with lives that mirror God's personality and carry his holy name.
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