“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases” (Psalm 103:2–3, ESV).
Psalm 103 is David’s expression of his thankfulness to God. It is not just a casual expression. It comes from the depth of his soul. David tells his readers three reasons for his jubilant praise:
- God has blessed David with many blessings (verse 2)
- Among them, God forgives all his sins (verse 3)
- And God heals all his diseases (verse 3)
David understands God’s forgiveness deeply. He stole the wife of his soldier Uriah. He not only he stole Bathsheba, but he murdered Uriah (2 Samuel 11:15). David deserves God’s fierce judgment and rejection, but God forgives him.
One Bible commentator illustrates God’s forgiveness to David this way:
David deserves wrath; he gets mercy.
He deserves rejection; he gets acceptance.
He deserves hell; he gets heaven.
He deserves an adversary, he gets advocate. (The Preacher's Commentary - Vol. 14: Psalms 73–150)
I can relate with David on the depth of God’s mercy. Like him, I am too a sinner. I have done many wrongs. Every day, I rely on God’s forgiveness. For this, I am deeply grateful.
However, I struggle with David’s proclamation that God heals “all diseases” (verse 3).
Really? I have two friends about my age – early 50s – who lost their battle with cancer. One died from lymphoma, and another from brain tumour. How could David say that God heals all sickness? Is he blind to the reality that misfortunes happen?
But David was not ignorant: his first child with Bathsheba died (2 Samuel 12:18).
Perhaps, David is describing a different kind of healing.
He may be pointing to God’s healing presence. Although our body may suffer from debilitating illness, God is not absent in our suffering. Job confesses this while he suffers from terrible sickness: “I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25, NLT).
Is David inviting us to realize that every moment in our lives is marked with God’s blessing? Our external reality can be painful, but internally we can experience God’s healing presence and his strength for our needs.
Unique abilities to thrive
Recently, I read about Mariana snailfish. They live at a depth of 8 000 m on the Pacific Ocean seafloor. About the size of human hand, these little fish can thrive in harsh conditions: near freezing temperature and extreme pressure, a thousand times greater than at sea level. They survive because of their special features: flexible skulls and bones.
God provides these tiny ocean creatures with unique abilities to thrive. Will he not also give us everything we need to overcome our suffering?
As we move through this Advent season, can we wait for the answer to our prayers with thankfulness and faith?
David gives us these reasons for our hopeful expectation: God’s gifts of forgiveness and healing. While waiting for his miracles, we can have the confidence that God will give us everything we need to thrive.
As it was in the first Advent, God fulfilled his promise with the arrival of his Son as the Messiah. Therefore, let us hope with thankfulness and faith, and in everything, we give thanks!
—A Mennonite World Conference release by Sunoko Lin. A pastor and businessman originally from Indonesia, now living in the USA, Sunoko Lin serves as MWC treasurer.