Day 15 | Psalm 73
Everybody doubts sometimes–even the most devout followers of Jesus among us. Struggling with doubt can either defeat or develop one’s faith depending on the posture one assumes. Doubt defeats proud people because they sit in the crosshairs of God’s opposition (i.e. James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). Doubt develops the faith of those who are humble because God sheds His grace upon them. Asaph is an example of the latter.
Asaph begins Psalm 73 with a strong affirmation of the goodness of God. He does so before sharing how he struggled with doubt. At one time, there was a disconnect between what Asaph thought about God and how he felt about Him. His head affirmed one thing while his heart believed another. He called into question God’s goodness because he witnessed the prosperity of the wicked (verse 3). In fact, he envied it.
The Source of Doubt
Doubt is rarely pure. Doubt is usually undergirded by deeper struggles within the heart. In this case, Asaph was jealous of other people’s successes–particularly those who did not live by faith.
Envy has a way of exaggerating our perspective of people. We tend to see those we envy as caricatures rather than as image bearers. Asaph believed the prosperous had “an easy time until they die” (verse 4) and that they “are always at ease” (verse 12). Of course, this is not true of anyone. No person breezes through life unbattered. But, jealousy hinders us from seeing people as people by turning others into caricatures.
Ultimately, Asaph’s struggles had nothing to do with other people but with the sin lurking within him. Such sin kept him from loving people, particularly unbelievers who prospered. Not loving people inevitably balloons into not loving God. His envy of others evolved into doubting God’s goodness. Proud people are unable or unwilling to draw the interdependence of loving God and others. Doubt rooted in a proud person’s envy is faith-defeating.
Doubt with Humility
A humble person is not immune to struggles with doubt. But, a humble person struggles while showing sensitivity to other people’s faith. If Asaph was alive today, he would not start a podcast broadcasting his struggles with doubt under the guise of authenticity. That’s what proud, unloving people do. Instead, Asaph says, “If I had decided to say these things aloud, I would have betrayed your people” (verse 15). His struggle was sincere and so deeply personal that he would not have sought to capitalize on it by building a social-media platform through it.
Instead, Asaph took his struggles not to an ancient equivalent of social media–whatever that might have been–but to the sanctuary. He entered God’s sanctuary. There, he received an eternal perspective, realizing that this world is temporary and fleeting. Class distinctions are not eternal. A wicked person’s prosperity in this world is as close to heaven as he or she will ever experience.
In humility, Asaph confessed his short-sighted sin of envy. Personal prosperity is not proof of God’s goodness. Instead, it is God’s promises that promote His goodness. This is what Asaph discovered in the sanctuary. There, he entered God’s presence and was reminded of God’s promise to provide.
Asaph confessed his sin and identified himself with the unthinking animals being sacrificed to God in verses 21-22. He realized that he deserved to be put on the altar, but he remembered that God promised to provide a substitute. All the animals in the sanctuary were but shadows of the reality that would come in the person and work of Christ.
God’s promises of forgiveness, atonement, salvation, and eternity recalibrated his faith to where he exchanged his doubt for delight:
“Who do I have in heaven but you? And I desire nothing on earth but you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever. Those far from you will certainly perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, God’s presence is my good. I have made the Lord God my refuge so I can tell about all you do” (verses 25-29).
We have all the more reason to assume a posture of humility when we struggle with doubt. We have been given God’s presence via the Holy Spirit. We are aware of God’s ultimate provision in Christ. “For every one of God’s promises is ‘Yes’ in Him” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Questions for Reflection
> Knowing even the most devout may struggle with doubt, will you choose the path of humility and bring your doubt to God so that it may be exchanged for delight?
> As you experience doubt, will you ask God to show you what deeper heart struggles may be the root? Are you envious of someone or something?
> Can you remember a time or an example of envy turning your heart (or another person’s heart) cold towards God?
> As you bring to God your doubts and the heart struggles it reveals, will you allow Asaph to be your example of turning to God in confession and trusting God’s provision for you in Christ?