One of the things I love about the Bible is its earthy realism. It understands the world we live in – the good and the bad, the joys and the sadness. It understands how we feel about life’s injustices especially when we see people who mock the notion of God, enjoying success. Nothing ever seems to go wrong for them.
The Bible also understands our questions in the face of terrorism and the realities of fire and flood, drought and famine. Why doesn’t God just step in? It seems so out of character.
True faith will always have questions. In fact, the faith that refuses to ask questions is one which closes its mind to reality and leaves itself open to the contempt of the skeptic. True faith will want to address tough questions and be willing to experience the doubts that arise.
Doubt. Many people think that to have doubts is to lack faith. But doubt is not the opposite of faith. Doubt and unbelief are two very different things. Doubt is something that only a believer can experience, for we can only doubt what we believe.
Indeed, when we believe in God we often find our relationship with him grows stronger and more intimate as we are willing to face our doubts by asking tough questions.
Psalm 73 is a good example. The writer tells us that he came close to abandoning his faith in God: But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped. Yet at the end of the psalm, he says: But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge,… (73:28). In Romans 8:18, Paul wrote: For the sufferings of this present world cannot be compared to the glory that is to come.
Through the psalm, the writer tells of his spiritual pilgrimage – how he progressed from doubt to complete trust in God. He touches on his reasons for doubt and then speaks of the solution.
One of his key questions is framed by his understanding that God is good to the upright (73:1). ‘Why is it,’ he asks, ‘that many who are godless find life easy while I suffer? Where is God?’
Solution. As he reflects on this, he perceives their end… God will bring about their downfall – and it will be eternal. The idea of a final day of accounting is often mocked today. But if there is no final judgment, morality, however we define it, becomes meaningless. Indeed, unless we see that there is a future accounting, goodness itself has no value. True believers understand that the future is real even though it cannot yet be seen.
Strategy. In Psalm 73:15ff we learn how the poet worked through his doubts. He went to ‘church’: When… I went into the sanctuary of God… I perceived their end. Good churches not only read God’s Word but believe and teach it. Confronted with God’s Word the psalm-writer began to see what happens to those who choose not to believe: They are like a dream when one awakes; on awaking you despise their phantoms (73:20).
We today have all the more assurance about this because we now have the evidence of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without him, life in its fullness will not last.
C.S. Lewis once put it this way: “All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness. The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it, or else, that it was within your reach and you have lost it forever”.
Optional. You may want to read and reflect on Psalm 73.