Psalm 136:1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. 2 O give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever… 10 who struck Egypt through their firstborn, for his steadfast love endures forever; 11 and brought Israel out from among them, for his steadfast love endures forever; 12 with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, for his steadfast love endures forever… 16 who led his people through the wilderness, for his steadfast love endures forever… 21 and gave their land as a heritage, for his steadfast love endures forever…
This is such a lovely psalm extolling God with the refrain “for his steadfast love endures forever”. I edited the passage above to communicate the gist of the entire psalm but if you have time you should go back and read the entire thing. What strikes me about this psalm is the sanitized version of history it presents to the hearer.
If you’ve read the book of Exodus (and Leviticus and Numbers and so on) you know the story is much messier than this psalm. As God was liberating the Israelites from Egypt, leading them through the wilderness, and helping them occupy a new homeland – there was death and misery and chaos and conflict between God and the people. There were times when God considered killing every one of them – man, woman, and child! It got ugly. People suffered and died by the thousands. But, yes, eventually God delivered on the promise to bring the Israelites to a new home.
But this is how the human mind often works, isn’t it? With the passing of time, the memories of pain and loss and suffering diminish to be replaced with a longer term view of events including more of the good than bad. Well, that’s what we often hope for. But for some people that is very difficult indeed.
For some people the pain and loss of the past is so significant, and the hurt so deeply felt, the heaviness of it all never leaves. It’s there like a millstone around peoples necks holding them back from happiness in the present or future. This is never more true than during the holiday season, perhaps the most difficult time of year for people who are in a time of struggle. Seems like the holidays bring into sharp relief the shortcomings and deficiencies in our relationships. Estrangement from family and friends is hard to ignore. Trust me when I say there are plenty of broken places in my relationships as I expect is true of you. It’s part of the human condition.
That said, I’m praying that maybe I can take the posture of the psalmist this holiday season, letting the pain and loss recede to be replaced with celebration and gratitude for our God… for his steadfast love endures forever. Amen.