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In Psalm 73, Asaph cries out to God in rapturous delight, “There is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Ps. 73:25).

Every true disciple longs for this place of high devotion and deep contentment.

We could journey through many pathways in order to arrive at this place. But the road Asaph took to get here was an unlikely one. He took the path of doubt, confusion, and frustration. His journey holds valuable lessons for us as we live out our faith in a broken world.

At the beginning of this journey, he was vexed and perplexed at the harsh realities of the broken world. He was troubled and bewildered that wicked people were successful and prosperous. 

As he confessed, with surprising candour, he was jealous of wicked people for their prosperity (Ps. 73:3).

He vents his frustration about the unfairness and injustice in the prosperity of wicked and ungodly people. “Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches” (Ps. 73:12).

For Asaph, this was not an academic question or a mere passing concern. He agonised over this question. The prosperity of wicked people got him all worked up in the depths of his soul. He lost his peace.

Even worse, the injustice of it all shook his very faith in God. Shockingly, it made him question if righteousness had any value. Listen to his laments.

“But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped” (Ps 73:2).

“All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence” (Ps. 73:13).

“Why are wicked people prospering?” Asaph cried out to God. They seem to have no problems. They have no trouble. They face no hardships. They are growing richer. They seem happier.

The Agonising Question

Why do wicked people prosper? This is a question many of us often agonise with.

This question is as relevant now and in our context as it was in Asaph’s time.

Isn’t there that one obnoxious, arrogant person who throws his weight around in your office and gets away with it? He is often the one who gets promoted and prospers.

Haven’t we all had a boss who is quick to take the credit for your success and even faster to pass you the blame for his failure?

Anecdotally at least, we have all seen that the pushiest and the most ruthless people get ahead faster in their careers.

To avoid wrestling with our real doubts will leave us vulnerable in many ways.

Good, kind, helpful, and reasonable people, almost always seem to get overlooked for that promotion. It is the one who brazenly showcases or even exaggerates his accomplishment who gets rewarded.

For others, this angst is less personal and more philosophical. 

Why does God allow suffering? Why is there so much injustice in the world? Why did God allow tyrants and dictators to perpetrate ghastly crimes against humanity?

The injustice of our time bothers us as much as the unfairness in Asaph’s context rankled him.

But counter-intuitively, Asaph walked through this very path of bitter discontentment before he came to a place of restful delight and contentment in God.

How did Asaph manage this? What are the lessons for us here?

There are three things that we can learn from Asaph’s remarkable journey from bitter doubt to joyful faith.

It is Important to Wrestle With Doubts

Asaph lived in a culture where the pace of life was very likely slow enough to give him the space to wrestle with these doubts with the attention they deserve.

He did not ignore the hard questions of life. He did not brush them aside. He did not hurriedly move on to other demands of his time. He faced these doubts head-on.

Sadly, we live in a culture that does not predispose us to such contemplation. Sometimes, we are either swept away by the busyness of everyday life. At other times we are drowning in the overwhelming abundance of inane information on social media.

This is a risk to our spiritual health. To avoid wrestling with our real doubts will leave us vulnerable in many ways.

Asaph’s solitary journey with his doubts was in vain. It was only in God’s sanctuary that he could find closure.

Unaddressed questions can wedge doubts deep into our subconsciousness. Even if we are not perturbed by them consciously, they may subconsciously be shaping our life choices or subtly altering our Christian worldviews.

Worse, such unresolved doubts may make us un-Christlike. For instance, if we do not resolve why pushy people often get ahead but gracious people are left behind, we may conclude that being pushy is the way to live.

We may be kind and loving on Sunday. But we might become selfish and pushy on Monday.

Asaph did not ignore his doubts. He did not walk away from them. He wrestled with what bothered his soul. We must too.

It is Important to Wrestle with Doubts in God’s Presence

Initially, Asaph did not drag his bitter doubts into God’s presence. He tried to wrestle with them with his own faculties. In this Psalm, he recounts how tiring and burdensome this was until he realised that he needed to find the answers in God’s presence.

“But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end” (Ps. 73:16-17).

Asaph’s solitary journey with his doubts was in vain. It was only in God’s sanctuary that he could find closure.

Even more importantly, the moment a heavy-hearted Asaph entered God’s presence, he realised that these bitter doubts actually led him to sweet faith. What a transformation!

From bemoaning that the wicked are successful and prosperous, Asaph graduated to a place where he found delight and security in God (Ps. 73:25-26).

Asaph came to the unburdening realisation that processing his doubts in God’s presence is a surprisingly helpful way to grow in his faith and devotion to Christ. In fact, it was this realisation that birthed this new song of Psalm 73 in his heart.

Asaph went to a physical sanctuary to find God’s presence. But our sanctuary is not a space, but a person.

Jesus is our sanctuary. He has lived in our broken world. He has seen injustice. He endured the brutal onslaught of it. He knows the cut and pain of our open wounds. We can run to him for solace.

In God’s presence, the brokenness of Asaph’s world did not vanish. But how he viewed this brokenness changed. Asaph saw the immediate through the prism of the ultimate. He saw the present through the framework of eternal redemption and justice and judgment.

In God’s presence, Asaph’s worldview changed.

Grace Changed Asaph’s Heart and Worldview. It Will Change Ours Too.

Asaph was a great worship leader. He was hand-picked by King David to lead the entire nation of Israel in worship. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he wrote many Psalms that still instruct us on true worship.

But at that moment, his heart was messy. In Asaph’s own words, he was brutish and ignorant. He was like a beast before God; rebellious and refusing to submit (Ps. 73:21-22).

Asaph went to a physical sanctuary to find God’s presence. But our sanctuary is not a space, but a person.

So when he finally entered God’s sanctuary with such bitter doubts, we would expect God to rebuke him.

But God did not do that. In the sanctuary, God simply held Asaph’s right hand (Ps. 73:23).

This was a tender gesture of love and comfort. Asaph’s soul was in angst. God comforted him. Asaph was angry and bitter. God calmed him.

Asaph was wrong in every sense. But God did not rebuke him. God loved him.

God did not punish Asaph for what he did. But God loved him despite what he did. Asaph experienced grace.

Grace is a life-changing experience.

It was this experience of grace in God’s sanctuary that proved to be the turning point in Asaph’s journey from bitter doubt to joyful faith.

The Father beckons us too. The Son invites us too. The Spirit nudges us too. Come, let us process our doubts and our confusion in the sweet presence of God.

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