“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… But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.” (Psalm 73:1-3,28)
At our monthly Men’s Breakfast this past weekend we shared, as always, an informal communion. One of the readings we explored was Psalm 73, a psalm of Asaph. The psalm is ‘bookended’ by a repeated phrase. In the opening use of the phrase “But as for me”, Asaph honestly confesses that he has almost lost faith as he looks at “the prosperity of the wicked.” He believes God is good to the good. However, his personal experiences and observations suggest the opposite: bad things are happening to good people and good things to bad people. It stretches his trust in God, and he wonders if it is worth holding on to faith.
There are days when we must honestly confess that we harbour the same doubts and the same fading faith as Asaph. There are days when we too struggle to keep on believing in God’s goodness. Days when we wonder if prayer is no more than pious wishes and church is no more than empty rituals. Days when it seems God is neither here nor real. Despite this, Asaph’s closing use of the phrase “But as for me,” switches to a renewed determination to keep faith and belief. What makes the difference? What can also take us through such moments?
The psalm turns on a revelation received while in the sanctuary of God: “When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny” (Psalm 73:16ff). When he keeps on praying, when he keeps on with faith’s rituals, when he keeps on reaching out to connect with God, when he keeps on in fellowship with God’s people, he gains a new perspective. The very habits and places and people of faith that feel so empty are the very things that bring him through. Let’s not abandon the sanctuary of God but wait patiently there. Let’s lift our eyes and our hearts above what surrounds us to look at it all from the perspective of destiny and eternity. Let us keep on keeping on, dear ones.