Asaph, King David’s talented musician had issues. He agonized over life’s inequality and unfairness and fell prey to a common problem.
“For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Ps. 73:3 (NKJV).
Everything from likes to houses, families to stuff, comparison invades my life.
Maybe that’s why I always gain from reading the Psalms Asaph authored.
“But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped.” Ps. 73:2 (NKJV).
Enviable. Comparable. Endings.
It’s pretty easy to contrast life and circumstances in good times, all the more in a vortex of black despair. But Asaph, in his depression, did just that. Contemplative and transparent, he agonized in self pity, the sinking sand of affliction.
Dwelling on lacks and losses mires our feet in the mud of unbelief. We compare, oh yes we do. Hair, clothes, children, marriages, abilities and jobs.
Asaph, the man who led a magnificent ministry of music in the temple, enviable in talent and position, the same man who celebrated victories with King David, compared his life to those around and came up short. I get that.
Much more than I should.
Asaph’s judgement clouded. Mine blurs as well. He evaluated himself against others, and they became his standard, his point of departure. With physical eyesight he sought to comprehend things of spiritual value. Comparison draws self pity and self pity chokes truth.
From Asaph’s vantage point the wicked seemed to have it all. They were rich, trouble free and got what their hearts desired. They lived as they pleased and died without a care. They were full of pride, violence and evil, concerned for themselves alone.
Arrogant, they scoffed, slandered and blasphemed.
“How does God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High?” Ps. 73:11 (NKJV), they ridiculed.
Oh but they were so mistaken!
In their audacity, they judged God by their own standards, by things touch-able, see-able, think-able, and feel-able.
-As if God isn’t All-seeing, All-knowing, All-powerful
-As if God thinks like us, feels like us, reacts like us
-As if God’s timetable conforms to ours
-As if God doesn’t care.
In his comparative funk, the gulf between their haves and his have nots widened. Teetering on the edge of indifference and despair, injustices of life seemed incongruent with the claims of faith. Asaph nurtured his unhappiness through a secular lens, one that lacked eternal perspective.
And the question came to me in a sunlight courtyard at a Mayo clinic hospital where I watched a mother stroke the hairless head of her cancer ravaged child, and again at the bedside of a victim of an automobile accident. The young man’s bereft wife sobbing and confused. I looked around me and wondered at the hardship and suffering.
In the dark hours of monitor beeps and patient whimpers, of oxygen numbers and blinking lights, I breathed the same toxic logic. This whole thing of following God, of obedience, of discipleship to Christ is for what?
What value is faith if it doesn’t serve me?
Then smack in the middle of Psalm 73 is a turnaround (v. 17). Asaph was brought to an unseen certainty.
“Until I went into the sanctuary of God, then I understood their end…” Ps 73:17 (NKJV)
Met with the holiness of God, every thought pivoted, each contrast transformed. Self gave way in the presence of Sovereignty.
Asaph’s raw honesty and about face ministers to me each time I read it. Everything changed, yet nothing was different.
Have you ever had a similar experience? Has being in God’s presence changed your perspective at some point and brought turnabout? Do you relate to the same heart change which permitted Asaph to see things as God does?
“Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Ps. 73:25-26 (NKJV).
Faith enriches me, but its purpose isn’t me. It always points to the God in whom my faith is anchored.
It’s a good day to sit in the sanctuary of His presence, to concur with Asaph, God alone is the strength of our hearts and our portion forever.
Nothing else can compare.
“Everything changed, yet nothing was different!” Amazing, appropriate description of Psalm 73, Sylvia. It’s one of my favorite Psalms … I preached on this just a few weeks ago.
Perspective makes all the difference. “Whom have I in heaven but you? And [in addition] there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”
Well done, Sylvia! Another timely reminder of our Sovereign and Caring God.
Thanks Don. I wish I could have heard the sermon before I wrote about it!!!
And I wish I would have read your article before I preached the sermon. 🙂
There is something not quite right about that!
The envy problem started with Lucifer when he wanted to ascend above God. Sin brought that same malady to mankind. The remedy as you pointed out, is going to the Word of God. The joy of the Lord is our strength.
Thanks Barbara! You’re right. I think the same sin is in the DNA of our own disobedience to God today. Wanting what we want more than what God wants puts us in that same position as wanting to be higher than God. I am grateful for the Word and its constant reminder of God’s grace and mercy. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I appreciate your thoughts.
One of my faves. This would make a great meme – “Comparison draws self pity and self pity chokes truth.”
Thanks RJ. And you would know how to do the meme. I am still hopeless with technology!!
Nancy E. Head
Psalm 73 is a wake up call. We have the wrong goals when we envy the faithless.
It is definitely that. Their end which the Psalmist recognizes is the wake up call aligning our desires with His. Thanks Nancy for reading and responding!
I think we have all fallen into those traps from time-to-time Ms. Sylvia. I know I certainly have; and more than once. Perhaps those were really trials sent from God to strengthen our faith for some future time? That’s how I try to look at them; as growing opportunities. Wonderful, heartfelt, post (as I’ve come to expect from you) ma’am.
Thank you J.D. I like that perspective because they can most certainly become growing opportunities! Your encouraging words are always appreciated.
Your message brought back some tough memories, times when I cried out to God, “Where are you? Don’t you care?” But He came to me in the quiet whisper, the security of His arms wrapped around me in love. Thank you for the reminder of His great and unfailing love for us.
“The security of His arms wrapped around me in love.” I’m grateful those tough memories rest back on that reminder. Thanks Katherine.
Poetic, deep, disturbing, and powerful. So good to hear real people admitting honest weak thoughts. But then, oh the triumph as God clears our minds. Refocusing on Him restores meaning and purpose.
Thanks so much for reading and responding. I love Asaph’s Psalms, and the real world of how he interacted with God. I’m glad you enjoyed it too!
Oh, how faithful God is to lift our heads to perceive Him! The refreshment of these pivotal moments is palpable. Thank you, Sylvia, for this very well-written post.
Thank you Annie! I appreciate you reading and responding!