What does it mean to give thanks? Why do we express gratitude in our lives? Generally, when someone does something for you, it’s a natural response to be thankful and express gratitude for what has been done on your behalf. As followers of Jesus Christ, we’re grateful for what Jesus did on the cross, dying in our place for our sins and conquering death by being resurrected three days later. It’s through Jesus’ sacrifice that we can enter the kingdom of God. In Psalm 30, we see David giving thanks to God for something specific God has done, and upon a closer look, it’s not dissimilar from how we might pray to God in a moment of gratitude. As we examine this psalm of thanksgiving, what can we learn from the thoughts that the psalmist David shared?
The structure of Psalm 30
As one author puts it, Psalm 30 goes from prosperity to the pit and finishes with praise. In many ways, this echoes how we can share our testimony about what Jesus has done and is doing in our life. Often, an individual’s testimony about Jesus focuses on what life was like before knowing Jesus, the change that occurred when believing in Jesus as a Savior, and what life following Jesus looks like now. And the purpose of the story is to give glory to God for what he has done through Jesus.
In Psalm 30, David changes this order by starting in the present through verses 1-3. He encourages worship of God and points to God’s everlasting nature in verses 4-5, before going back and talking about what God did in the past in verses 6-10. Then, David finishes this prayer by praising God because of the transformation God has done in his life.
Going on a journey of thankfulness
David starts by reflecting and giving thanks for how God lifted him out of the depths and spared him from the pit after he called out to God for help. While it isn’t clear precisely what God helped David in overcoming, it is clear that David turned to God in a time of trouble and God responded.
“I will exalt you, Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit.”
Then, he praises God and says how God’s “favor lasts a lifetime.” And he praises God for the transformative power of changing weeping to rejoicing.
“Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
In verse 6, David says how he felt secure like he would “never be shaken.” However, if you’ve lived in the world, you know that our lives are constantly being shaken. Whether it’s illness, losing a job, the death of a loved one, a traumatic experience, or something else entirely, our lives are constantly being “shaken” in some way.
David recognizes that “real security comes from the Lord’s presence.” He says that God made him like a strong mountain. But this stability is not in David’s control because he acknowledges the fact that “just as easily God could hide his face and the psalmist’s favorable circumstances would be gone. In such knowledge the psalmist has now learned to live always in thankfulness for the Lord’s goodness.”
“When I felt secure, I said, ‘I will never be shaken.’ Lord, when you favored me, you made my royal mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.”
This all serves to remind David that God is worthy of praise. If death (or the pit) separates us from God, that deprives God of the praise that is due him. So, David ends his psalm by again pointing out the transformation God has done, turning wailing into dancing. David can’t help but sing the praises of God because of what God has done.
“To you, Lord, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy: ‘What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me; Lord, be my help.’ You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.”
What can we take away from David’s psalm of thanksgiving?
Every time we open God’s Word, we have to ask, “What can I learn?” Applying scripture to our lives is critical for our spiritual growth. Consider these five things that can be learned from David’s prayer in Psalm 30.
1. Give thanks to God for victories in our lives
When you pray, do you take the time to acknowledge what God has done for you? Start your prayers by praising God. In verse 1, David praises God for not allowing his enemies to gloat over him. We have all kinds of “enemies” in this life, such as illness and sins that distract us, that can keep us from prioritizing God and giving God praise. Keep track of how God is helping you overcome your enemies and make that praise part of your prayers.
2. Rely on God for healing and saving
In verse 2, David states that the Lord healed him. And in verse 3, David talks about how he was spared and brought up from the realm of the dead. God is our rescue (2 Timothy 4:18), and it’s important to acknowledge God’s work to help us be healed and overcome this world through our faith (1 John 5:4).
3. Thank God for sustaining us
We aren’t promised a carefree or worry-free life. However, we know “that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3b-5 NIV). When our lives are “shaken,” cracked, or crumble, remember that God is there renewing us day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16-17). God can use our trials and struggles to refine us like gold. (1 Peter 1:6-7).
4. Be loud in our thanks to God
In Psalm 30, David writes that his heart sings praises, and he cannot be silent. Don’t take the sustaining and refining power of God for granted. Thank God frequently, boldly, and loudly for what he has done.
5. Make giving God thanks a habit
Giving thanks to God is not something that should be exclusive to a holiday, season, or moment. It’s a way of life, a habit, and a routine that should be present in how we spend time with God.
Rejoicing comes in the morning
Psalm 30 paints a picture of a struggle David went through that God delivered him from. It serves as a good example of how we can rely on God to sustain us when we’re struggling. David calls out to God for help with his specific need. We should do the same. And when God responds, we can’t take God’s response for granted. Praise and thanksgiving must be present in our lives. As one commentator on Psalm 30 says:
“Prayer and worship are diminished if they only contain petition and general expressions of praise. To be exercised fully they must also include praise and thanksgiving that specifically respond to God’s salvation that has been asked for and that God has granted.”
Are praise and thanksgiving present in how you pray and worship God? If yes, keep it up! Keep making it a habit to incorporate praise and thankfulness in your life. If not, look for how God is working in your life. If you start to look and give thanks, you might be surprised at all that God is doing.