I love you, Lord! You answered my prayers.
You paid attention to me, and so I will pray to you as long as I live.
Death attacked from all sides, and I was captured by its painful chains.
But when I was really hurting, I prayed and said,
“Lord, please don’t let me die!”
Psalm 116: 1-4 (CEV)
When I was young, I just couldn’t relate to the Psalms. Whenever I read them, my eyes would glaze over and I’d think, “Yeah. Yada, yada, yada….”
Then, in 1995, I hit rock bottom. My son had turned a year old, and we threw a birthday party. About a month later, as I looked through the photos of the party, I suddenly realized that I didn’t remember it. There were pictures of people holding my son and eating his birthday cake – and I had no recollection of who they were! Clearly I was there (there was a very unflattering picture of me cutting said cake) but I didn’t remember the party. I had blacked out from too much celebratory wine.
Suddenly, this Psalm made perfect sense. I prayed; I cried out to God, “Please save me! Don’t let me die! Take away my addiction.”
And just as suddenly, I realized that yes, the Lord is gracious and compassionate, and abounding in unwavering love! God actually listened to me, and heard the despair and fear in my voice! And God answered. Since I was evidently not doing a good job of running my own life, God stepped in and took over. And my life has never been the same.
How can I ever repay God for keeping me sober for 22 years? What could I ever give in exchange for getting my life back? As the author of the Psalm says: I can keep my promises, and tell everyone I know what God has done for me; I will pray and talk with God every day, and serve the Lord until my dying breath. I will serve God’s people, and live in gratitude. But, is any of that enough?
Of course not. And that’s the beautiful, counter-intuitive thing about living in God’s grace. There are no demands! We aren’t required to pay Him back. God isn’t a narcissist, insisting that everyone grovel at his feet. God doesn’t require sacrifices; God gave the ultimate sacrifice! We are already reconciled with God through Christ, and while we may want to live in gratitude (and we should) we must understand that we also live in grace. God saves us because God loves us. It really is as simple as that!
And so yes, I will praise the name of the Lord forever – but not because it is required of me, or as a condition or payment for my sobriety. I will praise God because God is amazing and has done incredible, wonderful things for me! And God is just waiting to do incredible, wonderful things for you, too!