My Feet Had Almost Stumbled: Psalm 73 (part two of several)

My Feet Had Almost Stumbled

Psalm 73 (part two of several)
Written by: Pete McClanathan

Hold on to the strength we discovered in Psalm 73:1 as we move forward into the lament of Asaph. His next statement seems less encouraging:

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

Asaph doesn’t sugarcoat his feelings. He has fallen into a dark place of confusion and despair. Things were occurring around him that seemed inconsistent with his understanding of God. And he had been wearing himself out trying to reconcile that understanding with what he saw. 

This experience should be familiar to anyone who might be reading with us. In so many ways, small or large, the events of life can appear not to fit our concept of a powerful, wise, and loving God. If we take a walk down that road, we might be surprised at the clutter strewn along the way.
 
Why is there human suffering? Why would God, who has control of all natural and human events, not intervene to prevent disasters, disease, crime, or wars?

What possible purpose could there be for God’s allowing the murder of unborn children?  Or the existence of birth defects? Or infertility among those who long to be parents? Why child abuse, sexual assault, bullying, betrayal? Or famine, poverty and homelessness? 

Why do Christian families experience conflict and destruction? Why do children suffer or die? Why are missionaries killed or kidnapped? Why was Josiah, the last of Israel’s righteous kings, killed in battle? What sense can be made of rejection, isolation, depression, suicide? 

Why would God continue to populate the earth with people destined to experience such things?

What we’re dealing with is a popular topic in academic circles, called the Problem of Evil. It is cited, often arrogantly, as evidence that God does not exist. The argument runs like this: 

1) If an all good God exists, then there can be no evil;  
2) There is evil in the world; 
3) Therefore, God cannot exist. 

I recall a college philosophy professor condescendingly telling the class that he was “sorry” to conclude this to be the case, but reason compelled him to do so. I did not then have saving knowledge of God, Jesus, or the Bible, so I didn’t comment. Shortly after coming to Christ several years later, I began to see easily the many flaws in this “logical” argument. 

In a similar way, a longtime friend has stubbornly resisted my efforts to acquaint him with the content and truth of God’s Word. His reply has remained consistent through the years. Paraphrasing, he will say, “no good God could create a system that’s this messed up.” Or, “if this is what the world is under God, I want no part of Him.” 

I’ve placed before my friend an answer, one we’ve discussed in our earlier articles and one which I wish I’d been able to assert in that classroom many years ago. That answer is: God did not create the world as it is. And it wasn’t supposed to be this way.

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile and thinking along with us, this will not be a surprising statement. The entire biblical account describes the distortions in humanity and nature caused by the fall, along with the unfolding of God’s plan of redemption.  Sadly, my friend refuses to discuss further. But you and I should know better than to be shaken by the cynical conclusions of the Problem of Evil.  

Maybe we do know better in some ways on some levels, but on others it can seem we do not. 

Like Asaph and other biblical writers, if we’re honest we have to admit to our own questions and doubts. Usually well hidden behind walls of good biblical knowledge and Christian experience, they have a nasty habit of rising up and rattling the doors of our faith during times of confusion or distress. And the effect is to magnify the uncertainty and discomfort already present. 

There’s a good chance you’ve observed a similar challenge in yourself, or your friends or family members. Asaph describes it with these troubled words in vs. 2, “my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had almost slipped…”

That place can be chillingly familiar. We see a man whose strong faith is being shaken to its foundation by events he cannot understand.  

But he doesn’t stop there. As the psalm continues we see Asaph develop a new perspective, with understanding and encouragement for the reader.

We’ll watch that new perspective emerge over the next several articles. As we do, let’s remember the building blocks we’ve covered:

1. Vs. 1:  “Surely God is good…”  The cornerstone: God’s character and His promises. Here are just a few of the scriptures we can hold on to:

“The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” (Ps. 34:10)

“Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.” (Ps. 37: 1-3)

“The Lord is a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him."
(Nahum 1: 7)

2.  Vs. 2:  “...my feet had almost stumbled…”  The encroachment of discouragement or doubt in the face of things that are not easily understood. Here is how we deal with that:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Is. 55: 8-9)

“I have said these things to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16: 33)

I find it useful to keep a catalog of scriptures that speak to troubled thoughts, and to add to it as we go. You’re welcome to follow that idea, or to create your own.

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