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(Please read Psalm 73)

Asaph wrote about a journey he took because he allowed himself to be led by his emotions as he compared his life as a believer to how things seemed to be for unbelievers. He concluded that the life of unbelievers looked pretty appealing. Just look at how much fun they have; look at how well they do! By comparison, his life didn’t seem so good.

You could have spent all day telling him, “You shouldn’t feel that way!” (How well has that worked when someone said that to you?) For Asaph to grow, he needed to wrestle with his thoughts and emotions. So the Lord allowed him to take this journey, giving him the opportunity to travel from discontent to wisdom.

Asaph admitted he was envious of the prosperity of unbelievers who seemed to have no struggles. They’re healthy, strong, and free from troubles. They wear pride like a medal while using people and then casting them aside. They’re unconcerned about what God thinks because, as far as they can tell, God doesn’t care. They can do what they want and get away with it.

From a safe distance we can see flaws in his thinking; but many of us have similarly struggled. It may seem like the person who follows the rules loses, the compassionate person is taken advantage of, and unbelievers prosper. Conclusion: worldly people have way more fun and success than believers.

What’s the point? “Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain.” (Psalm 73:13) That cleansing had consisted of repenting daily and walking in faith. Our society prefers instant gratification. After faithfully going to church and choosing not to go along with what my worldly acquaintances are doing, I may wonder: “Where’s the payoff?”

Laurel tree
“I have seen a wicked, ruthless man, spreading himself like a green laurel tree.” (Psalm 37:35 ESV)

“When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me.” (verse 16)

The more Asaph kept thinking about it, the more miserable he became—keeping his own counsel. What the world offers does have an allure. That was where Asaph found himself. That was the best he could come up with.

“Until I went into the sanctuary of God.” (verse 17a) He returned to God’s Word, spent time in it, and perhaps discussed his struggles with other believers.

“Then I understood their end.” (verse 17b) From God’s Word Asaph regained the truth, a perspective revealed by God Himself, which focuses on Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).

Those who are worldly centric, however, are “brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors!” (verse 19)

Asaph admitted, “Thus my heart was grieved, And I was vexed in my mind. I was so foolish and ignorant.” (verses 21-22) The Lord moved him from being ignorant and bitter to having understanding and being at peace. “You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel.” (verses 23-24)

“Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (verses 25-26) During our earthly pilgrimage, the world offers nothing compared to the peace, joy, and life we have in Christ. And in heaven it only gets better!

Asaph had wandered into thinking that God was holding out on him. God’s Word showed him the lies the devil was feeding him, and then reminded Him of how much God loved and blessed him. Truly God is good!

“But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God.” (verse 28)

Delwyn Maas is pastor of Gift of God Lutheran Church in Mapleton, North Dakota, and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Ponsford, Minnesota.