As we toured my friend's beautiful home, I was struck with the details of design and construction. Walnut woodwork accented each room with coordinating built-ins. Archways led into the kitchen and family room area while granite countertops polished off each bathroom. Expansive views from the windows highlighted the country life I so admired.
"Deer and wild turkeys come often to drink out of the pond or strut across the driveway," the homeowner said.
In the family room's bookcase, I scanned the titles. The walnut grain of the bookcase accented the hard covers of various Bible versions, Christian fiction, and bestsellers in the inspirational market. How to have a strong marriage, how to raise wonderful kids, and how to be a witness in the community seemed to be favorite topics. The books echoed a lifetime of discipleship and service for this wonderful family.
We gathered around the thick dining room table and blessed the food. The wife spoke about God's many blessings, how she had designed the house online, and how God had provided so many of the wonderful things they enjoyed. The husband looked adoringly at his wife while pictures of their grown children and grandchildren smiled from the entryway. Light from the golden chandelier accented the healthy features of a family blessed by the Almighty.
Later that evening, I looked at the bookshelves in my small duplex. They, too, contained some of the same books, but the results of my life deeply contrasted with the results of my friend's life. Divorce, illness, financial insecurities, and long-term unemployment described my journey. No archways accented my kitchen. My furniture was repurposed from Goodwill or rescued from dumpsters. The country life I envied seemed as impossible as deadening the traffic noise from beyond my cul-de-sac.
My friend and I are both Christians. We love the Lord and attempt to live for him every day, but my friend's cushy life is completely different from mine. She seems to have somehow tagged God's blessings: a loving husband, wonderful children, financial security, and a beautiful house. She also looks forward to more blessings in heaven—a double portion of joy. On the other hand, I struggle as a single mom and can look forward to such blessings only after the doctors turn off the machines and record my time of death.
I learned from Asaph
That night, I cried into my pillow as I lay on my decade old mattress. "Why the disparity, Lord? I'm genuinely happy for my friend, really I am. But why are the blessings so unbalanced? Why has everything turned out so beautifully for her, and why is everything so hard for me? Have I done something wrong?"
He let me whine that night, but sent me to Psalm 73 the next morning. Asaph, one of King David's Levitical choir directors, must have had the same struggle. In this song, Asaph describes his trial of faith. He wonders why the wicked are so prosperous.
"They have no struggles," Asaph writes, "their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills …. This is what the wicked are like—always free of care, they go on amassing wealth" (Ps. 73:4-5, 12).
In other words, "What's the deal, God? These people are wicked, yet their lives seem to be pretty sweet. I, on the other hand, live as an oppressed Jew and have to struggle every day to make a lousy buck. Why is life so unfair?"
Asaph complained for 16 verses, then fell on his face in the sanctuary and saw the truth. The wicked were proud, with evil conceits. They would eventually be swept away by terror. Asaph, on the other hand, could depend on God to always be with him, to hold his right hand and guide him with divine counsel. With his crisis of faith resolved, Asaph sang his Amen: "It is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge" (Ps. 73:28).