“For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Ps. 73:3 (NKJV).
Asaph, King David’s talented musician had issues. He agonized over life’s inequality and unfairness and fell prey to a common problem.
I have measured my worth by everything from Facebook likes to cellulite. Maybe that’s why I always gain from reading the Psalms he authored.
“But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped.” Ps. 73:2 (NKJV).
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 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…”
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.
“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).
It’s a good day to sit in the sanctuary of His presence, to concur with Asaph for this is truth: God alone is the strength of our hearts and our portion forever.