A common character in the old west is the snake oil salesman. Those purveyors of medicinal elixirs guaranteed to cure whatever ailed you. “Step right up ladies and gentlemen and let me tell you about Dr. Throttlebottom’s Patented formula. Just one spoonful in the morning and another at bedtime is sure to cure rheumatism, cancer, diabetes, baldness, bad breath, and curvature of the spine.” Of course the “elixir” was mostly alcohol and the only thing that it cured was the drought in Dr. Throttlebottom’s wallet.
The amazing thing is that according to a study in Scientific American the original snake oil was brought over from China and did have medicinal value. Derived from Chinese water snakes it contained high levels of Omega-3s. “These acids not only reduce inflammation, such as arthritis pain, but also improve cognitive function and reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and even depression.”
So please hear me out, as I propose a “cure” for stress, anxiety, depression, fear, listlessness, melancholia, feelings of worthlessness, purposelessness, and hopelessness. Oh, the best part is that it is free. The cure? Looking beyond the walls of our prison to someone larger than ourselves. Not in simple acknowledgment, but actually commanding our souls, our thoughts, emotions, and desires to “Bless the Lord.” You could call it counting your blessings, but it is really recalling the goodness of our Lord. Bringing His light into our darkness.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.” (Psalm 103:1–5, NASB95) And that’s not all!
“The Lord performs righteous deeds And judgments for all who are oppressed. He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel. The Lord is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” (Psalm 103:6–14, NASB95) Wait! There’s more!
“As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, And its place acknowledges it no longer. But the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children, To those who keep His covenant And remember His precepts to do them.” (Psalm 103:15–18, NASB95) Do you see it?
“The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all. Bless the Lord, you His angels, Mighty in strength, who perform His word, Obeying the voice of His word! Bless the Lord, all you His hosts, You who serve Him, doing His will. Bless the Lord, all you works of His, In all places of His dominion; Bless the Lord, O my soul!” (Psalm 103:19–22, NASB95) Take as often as needed!
Ok, so we had a little fun with Psalms 103 but the basic instruction contained above does work. Recounting, again and again, the goodness and nature of God lifts our eyes from the ditch of self-pity we so easily slide into. There’s something about speaking to ourselves that changes what is inside of us. It’s almost as if our soul is a lump of clay being formed by our very words. Trainers of various kinds know this, what you tell yourself about yourself matters. In essence, we believe our own advertising. Some will take this basic human trait and use it to mold themselves by recounting how great, worthy, and wonderful they are in a kind of positive thinking binge. The Psalmist instead suggests that we mold our souls on truth; the great goodness, lovingkindness, graciousness, and faithfulness of God. Nothing really changes in our world until we are changed; remolded and reshaped by Jesus Christ. Bless the Lord oh my soul and forget none of His benefits.