It’s that time of year again, the end of the year. This is the time when we are forced to look back on everything that has happened to us over the past year. Whether it’s to try and decide on resolutions, simply to reflect on the past, or to remember all God has done for us, we will end up taking account of the big events of our lives that occurred in 2016.
Read Psalms 73
This is a psalm I only truly discovered in 2016, and I immediately loved it. It describes a two-part process we’ve all been through before: being tempted by the world and then returning to God. In this psalm, Asaph tells us about how he has struggled with envying the things of this world. He opens with saying how good God is to His people, and then Asaph begins the story of how he almost fell from following God (verses 1-2).
Verses 2-20 tell us this story: Asaph looked around, and it just seemed liked the wicked lived in comfort and fortune while he struggled and worked to live for God. Even though he followed the Lord, he felt like he was constantly fighting something while the evil people around him lived unopposed. Often times we do the same thing; we make the mistake of looking at what worldly people are doing. And we like what we see. We soon become preoccupied with what they have and what we don’t have, things like money, authority, or care-free living. When we start to envy the things of this world, we only torment ourselves. “All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments,” said Asaph (v.14). We lose all contentment and joy in the blessings we already have and usually bring ourselves into a serious state of depression, which just makes us even more confused.
It’s not until we choose to return to God and His values we are finally able to see clearly. But once we return, God allows us to finally understand how worthless and terrible the temporary wealth of this world is, that it is nothing more than a dream (v.20). While we became focused on the momentary payoff, God saw the end results.
This seems simple enough, but Asaph doesn’t stop there. He keeps going to tell us the part I truly love to hear. In verses 21-28, the psalm changes its tone. Asaph goes on to describe the faithfulness of our heavenly Father even while we struggle with things. Verses 21-22 describe a spiritual state we can often work ourselves into in response to being hurt or frustrated, “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.”
When somebody hurts us or we end up hurting ourselves, we can enter into this state that could be described as “spiritual semi-consciousness.” Anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one probably already knows what this is; sometimes when we don’t get what we want, we go spiritually numb. We can’t feel God’s presence, and we stop seeking the Lord with the energy we had before (usually on purpose). We think we are taking a rest, giving ourselves a break so we can heal and regain our strength, but we aren’t. We just pull ourselves farther away from our Father. When something bad happens unexpectedly, a Christian hardly ever feels far from the Lord in that moment. It’s later that he starts having problems. We become like animals, who don’t have the intelligence to avoid harmful things, and we end up getting battered and bruised by this world because we’ve lost sight of what is true.
But in verses 23-26, Asaph jumps into how amazing it is that God stays with us through it all. The Lord was with Asaph through the whole process, and He led Asaph back to Him. We have an awesomely merciful God Who wants to help us through those tough times. Even when we can’t keep going, our heavenly Father is still our strength. We can openly admit we aren’t good enough, strong enough, or skilled enough to make it through this life, but God is and He is the One Who helps us. And He never abandons us. I love that our Father doesn’t just want us when we’re perfect or stable. He wants to be with us and help us through the process. And through this process, we all have to come to the place of realizing we would rather be messed up and incomplete yet near God, than the perfect person without Him.
Verses 27-28 are the moral of Asaph’s story. No, bad people don’t have it better. The person who is near God always has it better, and we can trust God as our refuge from everything going on around us. I feel like that is the message I learned most of all from this year. For me, this year has been a constant reminder that God is with me and He will get me through anything. So look back on your year and see how our Father has led you through it all. How have you witnessed Him draw you closer through less than model circumstances? Have you thanked Him for it?