Thanks Forever

I exalt you, Lord, because you pulled me up;

    you didn’t let my enemies celebrate over me.

Lord, my God, I cried out to you for help,

    and you healed me.

Lord, you brought me up from the grave,

    brought me back to life from among those going down to the pit.

You changed my mourning into dancing.

    You took off my funeral clothes

        and dressed me up in joy

    so that my whole being

    might sing praises to you and never stop.

Lord, my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

-Psalm 30: 1-3,11-12


Psalm 30 is one of my favorites. No matter what is going on in my life, I find I can always connect with the reminder that God restores life even when it feels like I’m sitting in a grave. (To be frank, I can also always connect with the slightly sassy tone of verse 9.) If you’ve got an extra minute, find the whole psalm and read it in your Bible or at this link.

Throughout this psalm, the speaker recounts the ups and downs of their life, recognizing that in both the good times and the bad, they depended on God’s mercy. Even though the psalm mentions every sort of problem, from conflict with enemies to disease, from death to terror, it begins and ends with praise.
Now, most Christians I know, if they are honest, are quite a bit more consistent at calling out to God from the pit than at thanking God once they’ve gotten out of the pit. Let me repeat that. Most of us, most of the time, pray for deliverance from our troubles, as well we should…but we don’t, nearly as often, remember to praise God for our healing, salvation, and joy after we have received them.
You’ve probably encountered people who believe that a gift hasn’t been completely received until a thank you card has been sent. While that might seem a bit, well, over the top to some, there is real value in a practice of gratitude that takes time. Psalm 30 praises God’s works in the past in a way that reads like a thank you note: beginning with thanks, then explaining why the gift was so special, and circling back around to one more thank you. It’s the kind of psalm that’s only possible for a person who takes time to reflect on what God has done. Rather than a fleeting focus on what’s happening right now, Psalm 30 and prayers like it grow out of paying attention and remembering what God has done.
When we pay attention to God’s work, praise comes naturally. Who could keep themselves from thanking God with the awareness of every good thing God has done? That doesn’t mean that we praise God at every moment. Those times when we find ourselves in the pit, for instance, or crying all night long, we’re more likely to cry out for help. But once we’re out of the pit? If we just turn around long enough to see how far we’ve come, praise comes naturally.

Oh Lord, my God, I will give thanks to you forever. Help me to give you praise for what you have done as eagerly as I call out for help when I am in need. Amen.