by Lois Tverberg
“I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. ” Psalms 34:1
One of the ways the rabbis interpreted the phrase “love the Lord your God with all of your heart” was to point out that since we have both joy and sadness in our heart, we need to love God both when we are happy and when we are sad. We are to bless the Lord at all times, as the psalmist says we should do today. As Paul points out, we should “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
The rabbis had some wonderfully wise prayers in order to bless the Lord for both the highs and lows in life. When they went through a long, difficult time and finally had relief, or celebrated some happy event for which they waited, they said, “Blessed is He who has allowed us to live, and sustained us, and enabled us to reach this day!”
When a son returned home from war, or when a baby was born, or some other wonderful thing, they stopped to praise God for bringing them to that point in their lives. Even today this prayer is used, and is a favorite for many.
Even in times of grief, when someone died or they heard tragic news, they blessed God. They said “Blessed is he who is the true judge.” It was a reminder that God was still good, even when they heard about tragic events, and that he will ultimately bring justice where justice doesn’t seem to be present. It also reminded them of God’s sovereignty, and his control over all things.
They have an interesting, wise, but difficult saying that is often said on hearing tragic news. Gam zo le tovah – Even this is for the good. The first time I heard this saying was from a dear friend in Israel when he had found out that his wife had breast cancer. It is never appropriate as an empty platitude, but from the lips of a person who is suffering, it is a statement of great faith in God — that even in the worst times, we know that a loving God intends it for good.