It seems that the popular question of the day is, “Is it cold enough for you?” Obviously, it is meant to be a rhetorical question; we like neither the bad air that is caused by the inversion nor the cold temperatures. There is little we can do but complain once the ground is covered with snow and the cold air settles in. Last winter when we had little snow fall there were few instances of inversion; this year we once again have some of the worst air in the nation.
The problems of inversion can illustrate a spiritual problem as well. When we keep our eyes fixed on the Lord, keeping the ground clear, the effects of storms will be minimal. However, when we allow the doubts and worries of the day to flood our hearts we start down the slippery slope that is described in Psalm 73.
Psalm 73 tells the story of what happens when we look to the world around us rather than looking to the Lord for our hope. The psalmist opens up with the appropriate praise to the Lord, but then quickly laments the problems that concern him before the Lord, “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” (Psalms 73:2-3).
He knows and confesses the goodness of the Lord yet he wonders why the wicked seem to have it easy while the righteous struggle. He observes, “They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong” (4). The psalmist accuses the Lord of being unjust, for if life were fair it would be the righteous who have it easy, “They don’t have troubles like other people; they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else. They wear pride like a jeweled necklace and clothe themselves with cruelty. These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for! They scoff and speak only evil; in their pride they seek to crush others” (5-8).
Where is the Lord’s justice? “Does the Most High even know what’s happening?” Look at these wicked people — enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply. 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” (11-14).
Have you ever felt this way, that there is little or no reason to do what is right? If we allow these feelings to build up like snow in the valley, it becomes difficult to see through the fog. I hope that as these questions flood our minds, we realize our error, “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” (15-16). Things don’t make sense because we have failed to understand the reason to do right. We do not do right as a down payment on future blessings; we do right because we love God.
If we are willing to look to God for our answers rather than accusing him, we will find answers. This is what the psalmist learns; it is only as he comes into the Lord’s presence that he understands, “Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked. Truly, you put them on a slippery path and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction” (17-18).
The car you drive or the house you live in does not determine true prosperity; true prosperity is found in the life that we can possess in Christ. The psalmist learned that he was envying the wrong things. For while he may not possess material wealth or an easy life what he does possess is of even greater worth — eternal life with God.
May our understanding of this grow in the New Year; may we set our hopes and dreams on those things that last — eternal things. May we seek to honor the Lord in our lives not because of rules but because of love.
Do not allow the trappings of this life to pollute your view of God. Be quick to confess the things that take your eyes off your one true hope; keep the ground clear of envy and covetousness so that the bad air won’t build. Be quick to confess your need of God and find the real hope, eternal hope that’s found by coming into His presence.
Eldon Peterson is pastor of the Cache Valley Bible Fellowship. His column appears bi-weekly on the Faith page. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.