“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:25-26 ESV)
“Life stinks!” This is one of many colorful phrases people use to describe a negative attitude toward life. Asaph, the author of Psalm 73, said it this way: “My soul was embittered” (v. 21). The word embitter means to become sour through and through. Asaph had soured on life.
Why such a negative attitude? Because he had become envious when he saw the prosperity of the wicked (v. 3). Their lives seemed trouble-free. They were fattened by the world’s delights. “Their hearts overflow with follies” (v. 7). Their godlessness appeared to pay off. “Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches” (v. 12).
Asaph compared his own life to what he observed of the wicked. “All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning” (vv. 13-14). It seemed to be a fruitless endeavor to follow God. The wicked reject God and gain a life of ease. He seeks to follow God and gets a life of trouble.
As Asaph compared his life with the lives of others, the result was envy and bitterness. And he admitted that his negative attitude was ultimately directed toward God (v. 22).
Have we fallen into Asaph’s folly? It is easy to think that following Christ is not worth it. We see the prosperity of those who pursue their life outside of God and we compare it to our own troubles. Following God seems to be a vain effort. Why do others have such better lives than us? Why is disobedience rewarded? Why don’t we have prosperous lives when we follow God?
This comparison becomes fertile soil for envy and bitterness. When we envy the lives of others and when we become sour about our own lives, we are telling God that we are not happy with Him. Our negative attitude toward life shows we are not satisfied with God.
This is where Asaph found himself. Soured and confused, Asaph then turned back to God (vv. 16-17). When he began to look at life through God’s eyes, he realized that all was not as he had perceived. While he had been looking only at the here and now, he had missed the big picture. Presently, the wicked seem to prosper with a life of ease and riches, sinning without consequence. But in the end God will bring utter destruction upon them (vv. 18-20). Truly their pursuit is a vain way of life.
Asaph’s perception of his own life also changed. Presently, it seemed vain to follow God and get a life of trouble. But the reality was far different: He was continually in God’s hand, guided by His counsel, and destined for glory (vv. 23-24). The truth had swung Asaph’s thinking in the opposite direction. This is what he now understood: It is ruin to be unfaithful and far from God; but it is good to be near God and take refuge in Him (vv. 27-28).
Following God is worth it. For a moment, Asaph’s faith was teetering because he had set his eyes upon the false promises of sin and the fleeting prosperity of sinners. When he compared their life to his own, he became sour. But he battled bitterness with the grace of God. And He overcame his negative attitude by trusting in the superior promises of God (vv. 25-26).
Have you soured on life? Do you have a negative attitude fueled by envy and bitterness? Remind yourself of what you have as a follower of Jesus Christ. Stop comparing your life to the lives of others, especially the lives of unbelievers. They may enjoy a life now of ease, riches, and the pleasures of sin. But we enjoy a life with God! We know what lies at the end of the ungodly life and we know what lies in the future for us.
Slay the sin of a sour attitude with the superior promises you have in God. Your flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of your heart and your portion forever.