Today’s reading: Psalms 70-73.
An elderly missionary couple returned home to the U.S. by steamship after many years abroad. A political dignitary happened to be on board and was given a hero’s welcome as the ship came into port. One of the missionaries grew bitter and complained, “This isn’t fair. Where’s our welcome?” “Don’t worry,” said the other, “we’re not home yet.”
There are many things that happen in life that aren’t fair. The privileged advance because of connections rather than merit. Strong men take advantage of the weak. Those in power take advantage of their position for personal profit. It’s enough to make anyone cynical, but, like the missionaries, Christians must take an eternal perspective and realize that things will be made right when we get “home.” That’s what the Psalmist kept telling himself.
When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. 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. Psalms 73: 21-26
He was upended by envy. He couldn’t help looking at the wealth of the wicked and wanting some for himself. “For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.”
He was discouraged by comparison. He couldn’t be content with God’s provision because he kept looking at the riches of others. “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.”
His lack of understanding made him uneasy. He tried to explain the situation from a purely human point of view, and ended up feeling oppressed by the wicked.
Then he entered the sanctuary and remembered the eternal destiny of every man. Only then did the Psalmist understand how to avoid envy, remain hopeful, and trust God to handle the problem.
- “Whom have I in heaven but you?” God rules in eternity. This life quickly passes and gives way to a greater spiritual reality where all wrongs will be made right.
- “Earth has nothing I desire besides you.” In the light of eternity, everything on earth pales in comparison to God. Material things will always tug at our heart, but those material things are temporary. We cannot keep them for long. Hold them lightly, but hold tight to God.
- “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Even my own body is fading away, but my spirit is God’s and will be with him forever. The wicked, however, will be separated from God forever.
When you feel envious of the wicked, or discouraged by those who are better off than you, take time to do a reality check. The things they have are passing away. Your faith will bring you home to God, and his blessings will never end.
Though the wicked are in prosperity, and are not in trouble as other men; yet the godly, though in affliction, are in a state infinitely better, because they have God for their portion. They need desire nothing else: he that hath God hath all… They are blessed in God in this world, in that he guides them by his counsel; and when he takes them out of it they are still happy, in that he receives them to glory. Jonathan Edwards
Image by Runar Pedersen Holkestad on Flickr, CC by 2.0