News headlines are bleak these days. Factual events are spun as fiction to benefit the guilty. Differing accounts cause confusion and disguise the truth. And just when it seems things can’t get worse, violence breaks out again, communities are displaced, and thousands tragically perish. The marginalized suffer (again) while the wealth of the privileged increases. It can seem like the wicked are winning. We can feel like Asaph, the writer of Psalm 73.
3 For I envied those who are proud, as I observed the prosperity of the wicked.
4 For they suffer no pain; their bodies are strong and well fed.
5 They are immune to the trouble common to men; they do not suffer as other men do.
12 Take a good look. This is what the wicked are like, those who always have it so easy and get richer and richer.Psalm 73:3–5, 12
If this is true, why do I try so hard to do what’s right? Are my efforts to help in some small way even worth it? Asaph says what my heart cries out.
13 I concluded, “Surely in vain I have kept my motives pure and maintained a pure lifestyle.Psalm 73:13–14
14 I suffer all day long, and am punished every morning.”
So I follow Asaph into God’s sanctuary. I meet with God and ask him to help me decipher truth from lies. Here I find further insight into how to deal with this constant barrage of evil.
7 Then I entered the precincts of God’s temple, and understood the destiny of the wicked.
18 Surely you put them in slippery places; you bring them down to ruin.
19 How desolate they become in a mere moment. Terrifying judgments make their demise complete.
20 They are like a dream after one wakes up. O Lord, when you awake you will despise them.
27 Yes, look! Those far from you die; you destroy everyone who is unfaithful to you.Psalm 73:17–20, 27
Like Aspah, I confess my ignorance and lack of insight. Envying the wicked is senseless. Dissolving into hopelessness is counter productive.
21 Yes, my spirit was bitter, and my insides felt sharp pain.Psalm 73:21–22
22 I was ignorant and lacked insight; I was as senseless as an animal before you.
So, if what I see around the world is not God’s ideal, then what is true? Again, Asaph instructs me.
23 But I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me by your wise advice, and then you will lead me to a position of honor.
25 Whom do I have in heaven but you? On earth there is no one I desire but you.
26 My flesh and my heart may grow weak, but God always protects my heart and gives me stability.
28 But as for me, God’s presence is all I need. I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, as I declare all the things you have done.Psalm 73:23–26, 28
Let’s follow Asaph’s example, dear friends. Do not let your gaze stray far from the Lord and his goodness.
No doubt about it! God is good—good to good people, to those whose hearts are pure. But I nearly missed it, missed seeing his goodness. I was looking the other way, looking up to the people at the top.Psalm 73:1–2 adapted from The Message
Author Kathleen Buswell Nelson reminds us, “True redemptive hope emerges from true darkness and grows from looking up in the midst of darkness to the one true God.”
What truth do you need to remember today?
What can you do to shine light into the darkness?
Kathleen Buswell, Nielson, Isaiah: The Lord Saves (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing Co.: 2011), 114.