Have the inequalities of life ever dragged you to the depths? Are you ever tempted to compare your life to someone else’s? I am. In that disturbed state one day I came across Psalm 73 in the Bible and was shocked and awed to see there my struggle…. and my solution.
The writer of the psalm, a Jew named Asaph living in Babylon during his nation’s exile, was struggling with what he saw. He believed “God is good to the pure in heart.” However, reality was not backing it up “For I envied the arrogant and saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles…” and on he went listing the things he saw in his life which got to him. He felt foolish “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence….When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply.” The word he used could also be translated “worried me both in body and mind.”
Those have been my feelings too. There was a time when I looked at a man who seemed to have money to burn. One day he purchased a new color TV and a video recorder, close to $2,000 in 1970’s dollars. On the other hand, I was a new believer watching my savings diminish every day as I looked for work. If I was in a relationship with Almighty God, why did I have so little and that unbelieving man so much. I couldn’t make sense of it.
I think it is normal to compare possessions and income levels with others and see them as a indicator of worth. When I worked for a big corporation, salary discussions were something I deliberately avoided because I knew it would hurt either the other person or me. So I never told anyone my income. That was easy. Ignoring clothes, houses, computers and gadgets has been a lot harder.
Can you relate? Is there someone in your life who seems to have nicer clothes, a bigger house, a faster car, a newer, more powerful computer? Take a minute and be honest with yourself. Are this person’s possessions causing you difficulty? Things have a way of blocking relationships with other persons and even with God. When we let these feelings linger we begin to pull back. We become obsessed with trying to figure out why the inequities exist. What did we do wrong and what did they do right? Is God unfair after all? If we are children of God, why are we always struggling to make ends meet, to feel accepted. It can be a troubling dilemma without the benefit of divine insight. We can feel like we are losing our balance.
The psalmist finally saw the big picture when “..I entered the sanctuary of God” Once inside the sacred fellowship with God, he saw the whole scenario. “then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground…” He realized that possessions wear out, clothes fade and only those who have a relationship with God have something of lasting value.
What is remarkable is that man gained this perspective not in the Temple, not in his own country, but in a foreign land. The Hebrew word translates “asylum, hallowed part, a holy place, a consecrated place.” He was not transported away from life. He found perspective after entering sanctuary with God right where he was…in a foreign land.
That is the power of a relationship with God. We need not wait until Sunday service to be raised to a higher place. In the time it takes to blink an eye we can bring our beaten spirit into the sacred place of God’s domain. In less time than it takes to list our grievances, we can move into a prayer which places everything in perspective. The twentieth century author and theologian D. Elton Trueblood once noted: “At the profoundest depths in life, men talk not about God but with him.” If we’re having trouble understanding God why not talk to him? There is nothing more personal or more accessible than prayer.
If something about your life seems unfair, perhaps you have been comparing it to another’s. The best antidote is a thankful attitude. Try and list on a sheet of paper ten things for which you are thankful. Then see if you can stretch it to twenty. Maybe at this point many more blessings come to mind. Keep listing them. When you have reached as many as you can, then look at your list. As you look it over, begin to whisper your thanks to God for each item there. Is your list longer than the person you’ve been comparing yourself too? Of course you can’t know just as you can’t know their problems. All we can ever see is our own point of view….until we come into God’s point of view in prayer.
So when our hearts become full of jealousy because we have compared our lot in life to someone else’s remember there is a place where inequalities disappear. The lesson the psalmist learned so many years ago can still bless us today.