Please enjoy the following devotional written by Ascent College and Potomac School of Leadership student Jacob Snuffer as part of our “Psalms in the Summer” series.
Why does God allow terrible people to live extraordinary lives while extraordinary people live terrible lives?
Have you ever been bothered that extraordinary God-fearing people live in poverty, sickness, and exile from their communities, meanwhile dishonest politicians, corrupt leaders, and immoral celebrities live extraordinary lives?
The Biblical Authors were bothered by this too. Psalm 73 is one of many passages where a Biblical character struggles with this.
Truly God is good to Israel,
to those whose hearts are pure.
But as for me, I almost lost my footing
My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone.
For I envied the proud
when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.
Psalm 73 is one of the few Psalms attributed to one of King David’s choir directors, Asaph. As one of the choir directors, Asaph began to wrestle with the fact that he, who was trusting in God and leading worship daily, struggled while he saw the wicked prospering. He became bitter and began to envy the wicked because of their prosperity.
In Asaph’s envy, he wondered if following God and keeping His commands was worth it. If the wicked have peace, wealth, security, and health, why keep God’s commands?
Asaph goes on to list the numerous ways the wicked prosper despite their wickedness culminating in vv.13-14,
Did I keep my heart pure for nothing?
Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?
I get nothing but trouble all day long;
every morning brings me pain.
Asaph was at a crossroads in his life. He has lived a faithful life to His God, yet every day, he receives trouble.
This is a genuine struggle for many of us today. We see God’s people being persecuted, exiled from their communities, slandered, and marginalized. Meanwhile, corrupt leaders gain more power, dishonest politicians receive more money, and immoral artists/celebrities receive more fame.
So how are we supposed to reconcile the Godly perishing in this world while the wicked flourish? I suggest we reconcile how Asaph reconciled. Asaph goes on to wrestle and reconcile his struggles healthily and fruitfully.
If I had really spoken this way to others,
I would have been a traitor to your people.
So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper.
But what a difficult task it is!
1. VULNERABILITY IN PRAYER
The first thing Asaph does with his questions and doubts is take them vulnerably to the Lord.
Asaph does not hide nor ignore his feelings of frustration, envy, and doubt; he takes them to God in prayer.
Frequently, if we are not careful, our frustrations can lead us further from prayer when prayer should be our default response to our frustrations. We do not serve a God who cannot handle our frustrations; the opposite is true; He wants us to come to Him vulnerably with our frustrations.
Like Asaph, our default response to frustration, envy, or doubt should be a spirit of vulnerability in prayer.
Then I went into your sanctuary, O God,
and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.
2. ENTER GOD’S SANCTUARY
Asaph’s time in prayer led him to go to God’s sanctuary to be in community with God’s people.
Remember that Asaph was a choir director. Therefore, we can assume his sanctuary visit involved singing praises. In his time of praise, he began seeing the world from a heavenly perspective.
After Asaph spent time in a community in God’s presence, he had a realization. The lives that seemed to be extraordinary were no longer extraordinary. The material wealth, temporary fame, and earthly success no longer were how Asaph would describe an extraordinary life.
While struggling to prosper, Asaph realized the genuinely extraordinary life is in a relationship with the Creator.
Like Asaph, we need to have a perspective shift. Psalm 73 invites us to see that expensive houses, luxurious cars, and earthly success will not last. The only thing that will last is our relationship with the Creator.
Lastly, Asaph comes back to God in prayer.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.
3. REINVIGORATE THE RELATIONSHIP
Once Asaph saw the world through a heavenly perspective, he no longer saw what an extraordinary life was in the same way.
The lives that seemed to have nothing other than a relationship with God became the lives with everything they needed.
When we look into the world and struggle with seeing terrible people live extraordinary lives and extraordinary people living terrible lives, we need to come vulnerably to the Lord and remind ourselves of His goodness in community. We need to reinvigorate our relationship with Him.
God wants us to walk with Him through our struggles, not after them, and for us to see the world the way He does. When we come to a place and feel that our relationship with God is the only thing we have, we can rest assured that we have everything we need.