“What’s the use? I’ve done the best I can! It just doesn’t seem worth it. Even though I try to do what is right, I lose out. Everyone else seems to do better as they just look out for themselves. I’ve had it – I can’t take anymore… What’s even more frustrating is the apparent success of those who are looking out only for themselves. It just doesn’t seem fair. Is it worth it? People who ignore and even defy God are better off than I am. What’s the use? I think I’ll quit…”
Seem like a familiar rant? Have you ever felt like this? I don’t think I’m the only one who has felt frustration when I am trying to do the right thing, and others seem to prosper.
Did you know that there is a song about this in the Bible? Well there is.
It was written by a man named, Asaph, who came from a musical family in Israel. During the reign of the great King David, he was recognized as the chief musician and even accomplished himself as a writer of some of the Psalms. One of these is Psalm 73. He wrote it to encourage God’s people who face frustration, envy, even bitterness when serving God doesn’t seem worth it.
Read it and then let’s think about it. (I know it seems long, and that there’s a good chance you will pass over it. But you’re even less likely to read it if you must leave the blog post and get a Bible.)
Psalm 73 (ESV) A Psalm of Asaph.
1 Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
3 For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
5 They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them as a garment.
7 Their eyes swell out through fatness;
their hearts overflow with follies.
8 They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
9 They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth.
10 Therefore his people turn back to them,
and find no fault in them.
11 And they say, “How can God know?
Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
12 Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.
13 All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
14 For all the day long I have been stricken
and rebuked every morning.
15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
I would have betrayed the generation of your children.
16 But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17 until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.
18 Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.
19 How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
20 Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
21 When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
22 I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.
23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28 But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.
A few highlights:
- Asaph begins by acknowledging his sin: he had almost slipped (V.2, 3) when he looked at the “prosperity” of people around him, he became envious. Asaph is not alone in this. Sometimes I’m on a slippery slope and don’t know it!
- The “prosperity” although short-lived is alluring and deceptive (VS.4 – 7) because it fosters a false sense of security and independence (VS.11, 12). This, in turn, causes bitterness and doubt among God’s people. Sometimes, it doesn’t seem as if serving the Lord is worth it.
- A clear perspective is found, by worshiping God with his people. The sanctuary is God’s holy presence among his people. In the OT, this was the tabernacle or temple, where God’s people gathered to worship him. Now, God’s people gather in public worship, where God especially uses His Word and the Sacraments to assure us of his love. (VS.16, 17). God has given us the church to help shepherd us. John Calvin likened it to a “mother.” We are not as strong as we think and often need care from one another.
- The bottom line (“end”) for those trusting in prosperity is sudden and total devastation (VS. 18 – 20). Even though God warns of his judgment repeatedly, it comes as a surprise.
- Those who trust in the Lord can depend on God’s faithfulness even when they act like a beast (animal – brutish and ignorant V. 22). I sometimes act like a dumb animal and need to confess it to God. Even so, God continues to guide and encourage (VS.23, 24).
- Trusting the Lord is better than anything. Circumstances change; physical bodies wear out; the wicked are judged, but God’s love lasts. The faithfulness of the Lord can be counted on.
So, what is the use? Is trusting God worth it? Yes! It is!
Consider the bottom line. The short-term perspective is deceptive and ends in destruction. So, resist bitterness and take the long view. God’s love lasts. You can count on him. He is the sole source of strength and security.
Don’t give up. Envy, frustration, even bitterness result from “trying to do the right thing” with the wrong motive. Real peace results from the living and true God. Trust him. Obey him. He’s worth it!