I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have being.
While the praise of God is a theme in many of the Psalms, it dominates the last five. Perhaps this is a reminder that praise of God is important, not for Him, but for us. Perhaps it is a reminder to praise God. It certainly is a reminder that praise of God is not just an action, but a lifestyle. To live a life that praises God at all times is a life of faith and trust in God. And that’s hard.
Saint Paul writes in II Corinthians 1:8, “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself.” I guarantee that someone reading this message today is right there, unbearably crushed, despairing of life itself. Which is why I hope we can all pause when we finish this message, to pray for all those who are reading this today, even though we don’t know their names, for their strength, and for them to reflect God’s praise, even on a day when life is hard.
To commit to “I will praise the Lord as long as I live” is a big commitment. I am alive today. Am I committed to praising God today, regardless of what kind of day it is?
There is no feeling that lasts forever. Feelings come and go. A feeling of hunger (for food) will dominate all other feelings when we haven’t eaten in a while. A feeling of drowsiness will dominate all other feelings when we haven’t slept in a while. Feelings of euphoria and feelings of despair can be trumped by a feeling of hunger or fatigue. That’s why we can’t invest everything that we have into our feelings, because they constantly change. Love is not a feeling. Neither is trust or faith. These things are choices. We can choose to love, to trust, to believe, and to praise God, even when we are tired, hungry, euphoric or despondent.
Every human relationship is temporary, in terms of a person’s physical presence in our lives. Because at some point, death will separate us from every person we know, either because they die first, or because we will die first. Therefore, it is the spiritual relationship that matters, because this is the relationship that lasts forever. Thus, as Psalm 146:3-4 reads, we should “put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no help. When his breath departs he returns to his earth; on that very day his plans perish.”
The Psalmist continues that “Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.” (v. 5) Because while happiness is a fleeting feeling, the joy of the Lord, and joy in the Lord is actually possible at all times, because it is a choice, albeit a hard choice when things are not going well.
As I am writing today, I’m thinking about people I’ve known over the years who have had unbelievably hard times. I’m thinking of parents who lost children who still make the choice to love God. I’m thinking of the young woman who was diagnosed with cancer (and who later passed away) who said “no matter what happens, I will never stop praising God.” I have seen some people with amazing faith in my ministry, the kind of faith I hope I never need to have.
This year has tested the faith of many. I have had my faith shaken in many people, including civil leaders, church leaders, even a few friends. My faith in God remains intact, and I remain committed to standing at His Holy Altar, and showing up to praise Him regardless of what happens in life, on good days and bad days, in good times and in troubled times. The Covid pandemic has caused not only fear and anxiety, but anger and frustration with how it’s been handled. Next week, the election will throw many pockets of this country into turmoil, as we all want “our side” to win. Regardless of who “wins” the election, it is our country that will be the loser, because of the divisiveness caused by politics, on both sides. That’s why I don’t put faith in politics, politicians, or political issues, because no political party is going to save me. Only God can save me. And indeed, happy is the one who has figured this out.
One liturgical note that relates to this Psalm—Three verses of this Psalm are paired with the second antiphon of the Divine Liturgy on Sundays:
“I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.” (v. 2)
“Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.” (v. 5)
“The Lord will reign forever, Thy God, O Zion, to all generations.” (v. 10)
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have being. Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no help. When his breath departs he returns to his earth; on that very day his plans perish. Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners, He upholds the widow and the fatherless; but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. The Lord will reign forever, thy God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord! Psalm 146
Praise the Lord with your words and actions. Choose love, trust, and faith regardless of how you feel today!