Finding the Faith that Defeats Doubt
Finding the Faith that Defeats Doubt (Psalm 73)
Your neighbor who never enters a church or gives a dime to God's work receives a promotion and big raise. You go to church three times a week and support God's work sacrificially and are passed over for promotion. Your coworker laughs at God and ridicules the faith yet is as healthy as a horse. You live for God and stay sick. These undeniable realities about life can become the seedbed of real doubt about God's existence or goodness.
An unknown psalmist had struggled with that doubt. He begins his song with a conclusion: "[Nevertheless] God is good." The conclusion at the beginning of Psalm 73 implies a previous struggle of soul. The psalmist had asked himself the question: "Is it worth holding onto the belief that God is really good?" He found the answer. Or more correctly, the answer found him. Human observation creates doubt, but divine revelation renews faith.
Doubt Springs from the Observation of Life
Your reaction to life may cut the ground out from under your faith. The psalmist confessed that faith had slipped and he had lost his footing in life (v. 1). It frightened him to feel the very foundation of life slipping away from beneath his feet. Why would God's person feel such instability? The undeniable facts of human life threatened his faith. The warm flush of envy filled his face when he considered the prosperity of those who lived without God. Any believer who honestly looks at life has faced this contradiction. The godless do very well in the world.
This comes from the observation of life. The unbelievers do prosper more than God's people. Outwardly, they seem to be exempt from the struggles of ordinary people. Physically, they look better than God's people. Their bodies are sleek and strong and stylish. They seem to be exempt from the problems that plague most people. Beyond that, they are arrogant about their obvious superiority. They wear pride like a necklace (v. 6). Inwardly, their "fat hearts" look through evil eyes and their mind is a fountain that never ceases to flow with selfish schemes. Verbally, they speak as if they were gods in their own world. They act as if the whole earth belonged to them and disparage everything and everybody (v. 9).
What galls is the popularity of the godless. Influentially, they lead the masses to drink up their words and ways like a thirsty person drinks water (v. 11). The obvious prosperity of the godless leads the masses to question whether God has any knowledge of the individual person's life at all. Indeed, the fortune of the wicked causes many to question whether there is a God who knows everything.
What the psalmist saw is true to life as we know it. This leads to a desperate conclusion. It does not pay to serve God. What good does it do to keep ourselves outwardly and inwardly pure? We who believe receive blow after blow from life while unbelievers waltz their way from success to success. This is the point where faith can collapse unless there is an answer.
Faith Comes from the Revelation of God
Restoration of faith begins with our influence on God's people. When faith is about to slip, anything God uses to restore it is good. The psalmist caught himself in the fall when he thought of the influence of his cynicism would have on God's people. He wanted to parade his perplexities and declare his doubts, but this would treacherously undercut God's people. He stopped in the downward slide when he thought of the church. He did not want to hurt God's church.
Restoration of faith happens when we meet God. The psalmist tried to penetrate the mystery and it was too much for him (v. 16). The great turning point from doubt to faith came when he went to the place where he met God: "I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny" (v. 17). In the quiet place of worship a revelation from God crashed into his life. His whole value system was reversed. He looked at the life of the godless from the standpoint of the end. Their life was really like the phantom of a dream that cannot be remembered the next morning (v. 20). That is, he completely changed his mind about what was actually real. A moment before, the wealth, glitter, and proud pomp of the godless appeared eternal. Now it all disappears in a new vision of God.
Restoration of faith leads to a confession. Negatively, we may think more like a beast than a person. The psalmist confessed that he had reacted with no more faith than a hippopotamus! In the presence of God he had experienced a reversal of values so radically that it could be compared to a beast suddenly thinking like a human being. But he does not grovel in the negative.
Positively, we must affirm some things about God and ourselves. We must affirm that God is present, even in our doubts. He protects us and provides direction for us when we are about to slip. Suddenly, the thought of God fills every horizon. The Real One replaces the apparently real. We may make a great affirmation about ourselves: God is all we want in heaven or on earth. The psalmist's raging, doubting ego disappears. His superficial evaluation of the godless vanishes. Regardless of how little he has or is, God fills every horizon.
He still looks at reality. His flesh and heart—his whole life—may dissolve and disappear. Suffering is still real, but God is more real. Though he himself should disappear, he is confident of life in God. Now God and His people appear to be permanent and prosperous. The godless vanish. He found a new way of looking at life when he went to the house of God. Have you?