You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told. (Psalm 40:5)
How we feel about our lives today depends, in large part, on how we interpret our past and our future.
For some, the past is dominated by memories of disappointment and regret. Even if we’ve had plenty of happy moments, what we remember are the hopes deferred, opportunities squandered, relationships broken, and resolutions abandoned. The past is a catalogue of sins and sorrows.
And the future? As far as many of us can see, the weeks and months ahead hold out little hope. We are not where we would like to be in life, and the immediate future offers few prospects for change. Perhaps we would not quite call ourselves cynical about the days ahead, but neither would we call ourselves expectant.
God’s word, however, provides a different interpretation of the past and the future for those who are in Christ. The past, no matter how disappointing it feels, is full of God’s wondrous deeds. And the future, though gray in our own estimation, is full of God’s merciful plans.
When King David looks back upon his past, he says to God, “You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds” (Psalm 40:5). For David, the past is not mainly a repository of his own failures and regrets, but of the wonders of God that cover David’s failures and regrets.
Throughout the Psalms, the phrase wondrous deeds refers to God’s saving acts (Psalm 26:6; 71:17; 106:22), and here David has in mind a deeply personal deliverance. When he was sinking in the pit of destruction and the miry bog, God lifted him up, set his feet upon the rock, and put a new song in his mouth (Psalm 40:1–3).
Every Christian has a similar story, no matter how well we remember it or not. Like David, we all once were confined to the pit of destruction — ignoring God, loving sin. But then, in unthinkable grace, God caused us to cry to him. And in grace more unthinkable still, “he inclined to [us] and heard [our] cry” (Psalm 40:1). The holy God of heaven bent down to notice us, hear us, and redeem us through the blood of his dear Son. How wonderful that God should rescue us! Wonderful enough to forgive every sin and outweigh every sorrow in the years that have passed.
If, when we look back on our past, we have eyes only for the bitter, we are seeing less than half the story. Alongside “I failed; I missed my chance; I lost the relationship,” we need to add the more fundamental realities: “Christ has conquered the grave for me; he has broken my chains; God has done great things.”
Wondrous deeds are not all that God multiplies, however. David also says, “You have multiplied, O Lord my God, . . . your thoughts toward us” (Psalm 40:5). As other biblical references to God’s thoughts reveal (Psalm 92:5; Jeremiah 29:11; Micah 4:12), his thoughts are not mere observations, but rather plans. When God thinks about us, he is crafting merciful plans for us.
God is not content to fill only our past with wondrous deeds; he is always dreaming up new wonders in the chambers of his merciful imagination. He is always eager to unfold new dimensions of the greatness of his grace and the glory of his love, adding fresh installments every day. He has done great things; he will do great things.
The future, then, is no wasteland where we can expect little of worth to come our way. The future is the stage where God will turn his merciful plans into more and more wondrous deeds: more prayers answered, more deliverances granted, more chains broken, more glories unveiled. Even if those merciful plans involve their share of suffering (which they will), God will be working at every step to turn the enemy’s evil for our everlasting good (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28).
Nor need we fear that God will ever run out of his merciful plans, for, as David tells us, “they are more than can be told” (Psalm 40:5). We only need eyes to see them.
Hemmed in by His Mercy
Today, take a moment to look to your past and look to your future with eyes of faith. Behind you are the wondrous deeds of God. Before you are the merciful plans of God. Both of them are marvelous and numerous beyond telling.
Only when we live here, hemmed in by the mercies of God, can we look ahead to today, with whatever it holds, and rejoice. Only here can we dance in the freedom Jesus has won for us; only here can we look to the future with hope of great things yet to come.