Five Steps in Maintaining Your Sanity in Times of Trouble

Keith Crosby

Psalm 73

Ours is a difficult world filled with injustice, prejudice, hatred, and suffering.  Sometimes it seems that bad people get away with murder, both figuratively and literally.  This tends to drive some of us to distraction. How can we maintain our sanity in a world seeming gone wrong?  Psalm 73 provides us a picture of what to do. Psalm73 is a Psalm of Asaph.  Little is known about Asaph.  However, from reading his Psalms we can see he was a human being just like you and me.  He has the same struggles and weaknesses.

In Psalm 73, you can sense and feel Asaph’s frustration and struggle with the hardships and injustices of the world around him.  You can watch him struggle in his mind and heart to process it all and to lean on God for strength and comfort.  He loves God alright, but he laments the evil and injustice all around him. He struggles to hold onto peace of mind and his faith in God.  Psalm 73 pictures his successful struggle to keep it together in a difficult world.  What can you and I learn from his example?  Let’s see!

Verse one provides the first hint: “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart  (v.1.).”  Notice what he does.  Asaph starts off recalling the truth.  And that truth is that God always takes care of His people. Nothing and no one can ever separate us from the love of God.  While in this deep dark valley, Asaph remembers what is true.  You and I must do the same.  Remind yourself that God is good to His people and no matter how tough things are, His love is stronger still.  Step One: Cling to what is true.  God is always good to His people.  Now what?  Watch and see:

2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. 3 For I was envious of the arrogant  when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 13 All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. 15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children (vv. 2-3; 13; 15).

Beginning in verse 2, you can see Asaph ready to throw up his hands in frustration and despair.  Then he considers the potential harm and counts the cost to others of his ungodly behavior and thinking.  He acknowleges the potential harm of his wrong thinking in verse 15: “15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children.”

He counts the cost and catches himself.  Let’s you and I follow his example.  Let’s guard our hearts by counting the costs.  We must not cause others to stumble or undermine their faith.  Step Two: Guard your heart by counting the cost of your actions, “If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children.”  Now what?

What does Asaph do next?  In verses 16-19 you can see him struggle to regain the eternal perspective:

16 But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, 17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. 18 Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. 19 How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors (vv. 16-19)!

He takes the matter to God in prayer.  Asaph goes to the temple (the sanctuary) and worships.  While in prayer, he sees things clearly from an eternal perspective.  He realizes that no one “gets away” with their crime.  No injustice goes unpunished.  God knows; God cares; God takes care of business, either in this life or the next. Step Three: seek to maintain an eternal perspective, “I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.”

As he works all this out in his heart, Asaph is moved to repentance.  Examine Asaph’s next action: “21 When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, 22 I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. 23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand (vv. 21-22).” Here Asapah humbly admits that in his mind he acted like an unthinking beast: “I was like a beast before you.”  Watch Asaph turn: “I was like a beast toward you. 23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand (vv. 21-22).” ).  It is said that repentance represents a change in the direction of our thinking that leads to a change of heart and a change in direction.  You can see this taking place.  When the going gets tough like this, try and follow Asaph’s example.  Step Four: If you need to, come clean with God as Asaph does (i.e. repent. And..?

Let’s continue to watch Asaph’s thought process develop:

24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 28 But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God  my refuge, that I may tell of all your works (vv. 24-26, 28).

See that Asaph comes full circle.  He clings to what is true: God is good to His people.  Consequently, Asaph chooses to occupy his mind with thoughts of praise and thanksgiving.  As a result, he publicly bears witness to God’s goodness!  Step Five:  Make it a practice to express your praise outwardly: “I have made the Lord God my refuge that I may tell of all your works.”  If you have made God your refuge, then, like Asaph, you can use adversity to spread the Gospel.

As you read Psalm 73, you can see and sense Asaph exercising faith in God.  You can’t help but notice that this can be a difficult task.  Difficult does not mean impossible.  God recorded these things for your encouragement and guidance.  Be encouraged.  Seek to follow Asaph’s example by making these five steps your own five personal spiritual practices.  I believe God will bless you for it.

 

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