Christians love the Psalms because we can relate to how they portray the messiness of life in a fallen world, and Psalm 73 is one of the most relatable. It starts with the fundamental Christian perspective on all things:

 Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.

Our sinful tendency when things go south is to wonder if God has it out for us. In the novel The Magnificent Ambersons, the protagonist is having an especially tough day: “After that, the whole world seemed to be one solid conspiracy of malevolence.” Who hasn’t felt like this at times! The much younger me often threw a pity party for me, myself and I, but nobody seemed interested in joining the party. I’ve taught my kids all their lives, and still do, that nobody cares how we feel; they care about how they feel. It’s best to keep whatever those feelings are between me and God, and a few close loved ones.

I hate to confess this for all the world to see, but it wasn’t until I got into my 40s that I was able to effectively counter the natural inclination to victimhood in my sinful heart. It took me a long time and much misery to realize God is good to his people (Israel), i.e., me, no matter what the circumstances look like. God’s goodness is not a function of our assessment of circumstances, as if from our limited perspective and knowledge we can assess the ultimate goodness of anything. It wasn’t too many years ago, five to be exact (September of 2017 to be even more exact) that I prayed to God something like, “It would be ideal if . . . “ And one day as I was praying I heard God say to me, almost audibly, “What a moron! How would you know what ‘ideal’ is?” Good question. Only God knows ideal, and that eternally. I now pray what I think I want, but always in the context of, “Thy will be done,” God’s good, pleasing and perfect will in Christ.”

Paul in I Thessalonians 5:17 commands us to give thanks in all circumstances because having a grateful perspective on things “is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus” (compare Eph. 5:20, always and for everything doesn’t leave us any wiggle room). By giving God thanks we acknowledge his goodness and sovereign power over all things, and in Christ means we are all in his eyes “pure in heart.” Romans 8:28 is the ultimate truth of our lives. Paul says we know, not think or hope or wonder, but “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

This doesn’t mean the knowing through all the vagaries, vicissitudes, pain, and suffering of life will be easy. Nothing is easy! But it gives our lives a hope and purpose and stability the circumstances people can never have, Christians or not.

The question is will we live by sight or by faith, i.e., by circumstances or trusting God. The Psalmist, Asaph, rooted in knowing the goodness of God, still struggled because life is, well, life:

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Living by sight he almost lost it, but only almost because he didn’t let the circumstances determine whether God was good, or not. He was even tempted to believe obedience to God was worthless:

13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.

But he knew that would be a betrayal to God’s people (v. 15), yet he still made the fatal mistake all sinners make:

16 When I tried to understand all this,
it was oppressive to me.

It’s insane to think we can understand God and his ways, as if comprehending the nature of God is more important than trusting him. Trusting him is what it’s all about. If we make this mistake it creates, in the Hebrew, trouble, labor, or toil. In other words, trying to figure out God is a miserable way to live. Asaph didn’t quite understand this until he realized God is God, and we are not:

17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.

Only when we look to the place where God dwells, understand who he is in all his glory and goodness and power, will we understand who we really are, and the destiny of those who belong to him, and those who do not. Otherwise, we will be senseless and ignorant, a brute beast before God (v. 22). The “secret” to a truly fulfilling life is as easy as it is hard:

23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And being with you I desire nothing on earth.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

It’s either this, or we will be circumstances people.

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