Life is messy
Last updated 8/14/2008 at Noon
It is easy to understand why Christians have always loved the psalms of the Bible. We can read about pain, doubt, and disappointments in the psalms. You will not find glib platitudes for suffering people there. We don’t have to put on a brave face and pretend everything is well. Life is messy. Sometimes we are confused. Our hearts get broken. The psalms let people with real pain and messy lives be honest with themselves, and more importantly, honest with God.
Psalm 73 is a good example. It starts out, “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.” (Ps 73:1-2) Doesn’t this pique your interest? Why would the psalmist say that God is good, but that his feet had nearly slipped? Here is why. “For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Ps 73:3)
Isn’t this so honest? He was troubled because people lived happily without fearing God. They were rich and healthy. They had no worries. But what about him? He served God faithfully, seemingly for no reason. He was troubled by the same thing that troubles us. Sin’s consequences are not immediate. God’s delayed judgment therefore emboldens many people to sin more. At the same time, the rewards of faithfulness are not immediate either. So the psalmist complains, “All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.” (Ps 73:13) I worship God for nothing!
Do you ever feel like this? Do you envy those who live without God? Does it seem that you only have trouble to show for following God? This psalm teaches us that we do not have to be ashamed when we realize life is messy and following God is not easy.
The psalmist found his answer in God’s sanctuary. God’s judgment is often delayed. But a delayed judgment does not mean no judgment. Don’t you get angry when you see the innocent suffer? That some people get away with wickedness pains us. But there is a comfort knowing that God’s justice will not be cheated. He will repay. No more and no less than they deserve. Those who suffer innocently will have their day in court. And God will be on their side.
There is also a great comfort for the faithful. We do not yet see the rewards of our loyalty to God. But he will not forget. In fact, it was this confidence that strengthened our Lord Jesus through his trials. Jesus for the joy that was set before him endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2). No one who saw Jesus carrying the cross and dying upon it thought he was blessed by God. But Jesus trusted his father. So after his humiliation came his exaltation. Glory followed the cross.
We have the same confidence in God who loves us through Jesus Christ. Our suffering will also end with glory. That is our Father’s promise to us. So with the psalmist we say, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Ps 73:26)