As a Christian I know that the Bible has something to say about every circumstance, trial, joy and blessing that I endure, but often I forget to look there for solutions or even coping strategies. The following thoughts are a reflection on Psalm 73 and a sermon I recently heard by Bob Gould.
Psalm 73 is written by Asaph, who is only mentioned in the Bible a few times and has no memorable story to attach to his name. For all intents and purposes he was a worship pastor and there are several Psalms attributed to him (50, 73-83). In Psalm 73 he speaks candidly about things you don't expect your pastor to verbalize. For a moment he lets us behind the mask of those "in ministry" and lets us see their human side, a side we can all relate to.
"Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped, I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked."
The Psalm begins with two very common thoughts, one: I know God is good, but I'm just about to give up, and two: Why do the rich have it so easy? Asaph was looking around at his trees and couldn't see the forest. Why does it seem that the wicked prosper and the godly suffer? In this Psalm Asaph equates the wicked with the rich, and although rationally we know that that is not the case, I'm sure it's a pattern of faulty thinking we fall into sometimes.
"If I had said, 'I will speak thus,' I would have betrayed your children."Asaph feels that he cannot share his internal struggle with anyone because he is in a position of Christian leadership and if he confesses what he is thinking he will cause his flock to stumble, to sin. Therefore he keeps it all bottled up, festering away at him, clouding his judgement and his vision. Personally I'm not in a position of Church leadership, but there are many struggles I never voice out of fear of what it would do to the hearer. What if I confess that I just want to send my kids away for the day and the person listening is struggling with infertility? That would hurt them so much more than what I'm dealing with right? Those of us who are people pleasers can probably identify with this Psalm. Anything that could be construed as negative must be kept to oneself, you never know the damage it might do.
But aren't we also called in Scripture to take up one another's burdens? Aren't we called to share with other believers in joy and in struggles? Why is it that we don't do it? Why do we always answer 'fine' when someone asks us how we are doing? (On a sidenote, is it really possible that no one noticed Asaph's struggling spirit? What keeps us from asking people deeper questions when it's obvious they need to talk? Or just reaching out a hand and helping instead of waiting for our help to be invited?)
You can read through the Psalm and see how Asaph has a distorted view of the situation. For example he thinks being rich equals being wicked and that rich have no troubles. Luckily however the Psalm is not just one of lament, he casts a light into the shadows.
"'till I entered the Sanctuary of God."Therein lies the glasses Asaph was in need of. When you spend time with God your vision becomes his vision and instead of being stuck staring at tree trunks you have a bird's eye view. The bigger picture becomes what you are gazing upon and your perspective changes. When we spend time in the sanctuary we begin to see that it's not about us and we experience the peace, grace, power, and wisdom of God. Then praise abounds for we can see what God is doing around us, through us, and for us. When our vision becomes that of eternity we can see with more clarity. We do not take the spiritual life seriously unless we spend time with God. If we do not know his thoughts, if we cannot catch his vision, our faith is not a lifestyle but lip service. And God is all we need for every circumstance, we can find whatever we are looking for in the sanctuary if we would just go there.
I can confess that life at our house is heavy right now. There are many obstacles and struggles that could consume us. But by remembering, and being disciplined, to spend time in the sanctuary I will not be consumed. I will be able to enjoy the forest even when I am surrounded by gnarly trunks. What an uplifting thought in times of heaviness.
As humans we tend to think we have all the answers. When we find ourselves in a tricky or undesirable situation we start looking around for what to do to fix it. I would challenge us instead to think of what we could be and to sit quietly with the Almighty until we have 20/20 vision for the problem we find ourselves in may not be the problem at all.
"Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."