Sustained grief and bitterness can have a corrosive effect on our faith. Not that grief in itself is always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s the appropriate emotional response to facing a loss in our lives. Even Jesus cried when his good friend Lazarus died.
But when grief is not allowed to heal, or if we “grieve as those who have no hope,” and especially whenever this devolves into a embittered heart, the effects on our faith will be quite serious.
Asaph knew. This man of faith and skillful worship leader had gone there. There had been deep grief and bitterness in his heart. He went through a season when he was confused, doubting God, and deeply troubled in his heart.
But eventually he climbed out of that dark pit. He returned — like an Old Testament version of the Prodigal Son — to his Heavenly Father.
And how did that return occur? It occurred when Asaph became convinced that through it all, his loving God had been with him. The LORD had been guiding him the entire time!
How did he become convinced of this? In Psalm 73:16-17 he says, “It troubled me greatly till I entered the sanctuary of God.” In other words, it was when Asaph came back to church that he realized God’s continual presence in his life.
In the verse below, he goes on to say, “You guide me with your counsel.” This is really the same thing. When we stay connected to church, and to the word and the sacraments, the Holy Spirit has the opportunity to connect (or re-connect) with our hearts.
That’s why Asaph nails it. Once he reconnected with God’s grace and mercy, he realized there is no one else he needs but God. That thing he thought was a tremendous loss? In the end, the LORD alone is the one who can bring him hope, comfort, steady love, and peace of mind.
It’s so true! It is good to be near God!
“When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds” (Psalm 73:21-28, NIV).
Our Bible reading for Sunday, June 14, is 2 Samuel 22:1 – 23:7, Acts 9:1-31 and Psalm 73:15-28.
Lord, I sometimes get lost in my sadness, my grief, my soul’s bitterness, and my heart wanders from you. This is a very dark place to be. Jesus, you became a human to show that you are not afraid to be in the pit with us. Guide my heart to your word and sacraments that I may always be reminded, as Asaph was, that you are with me always!
Header image based on "Depressed" by Sander van der Wel, CC By-SA 2.0