The psalms are unflinchingly honest. I like that. Anger, envy, gratitude and trust
can tumble out within a single psalm. Any emotion can be the springboard to
honest prayer. Nothing needs to be hidden from God—even though the psalmist
fortunately does not act on every emotion mentioned.
The author of Psalm 73 sometimes envies people who ignore God, yet al-ways seem
to be prosperous and successful. They “suffer no pain; their bodies are healthy
and sleek” (verse 4). You can’t write words like that without having
already felt them!
Some people think that prayer should always be serene. I used to think that way
until I discovered that psalms are not always calm, and yet they are very genuine
Luckily, the author of Psalm 73 has no need for any pretending. He admits to having
envied arrogant people. He certainly wonders why people who reject God’s values
seem to prosper so much. Who knows what other questions this author may have put
Luckily for us, the psalmist knows that prayer can incorporate emotions that we
might try to hide from God—much as Adam and Eve tried to hide their nakedness
Yet how often do we say to ourselves, “I’m just not in the mood to pray—maybe
after I’ve calmed down a little”? The problem here is that by the time
we “calm down,” our hearts have probably hardened in some significant
way. Prayer under these circumstances brings only part of our life to God—not
our whole life.
Is God Paying Attention?
We easily imagine that God’s love and mercy should protect us from life’s
roughest edges, from cancer, divorce, the premature death of loved ones, financial
worries, from wars and the worst horrors that people can inflict on one another.
We know that we live in a fallen world; sometimes we are tempted to forget that
we also live in a world created and loved by God. When we remember that, we regain
our “balance,” as this psalm describes it. As prayers written after moments
of darkness and joy, the psalms often remind us of what we once knew, had forgotten
and can now reclaim with even deeper conviction.
How often, in response to adult complaints about life’s injustices and disappointments,
are we tempted to say: “Get a life! There’s a big world out there and
it’s not waiting for you to give it a passing grade. Yes, human suffering is
very real and we should meet it with compassion. But we don’t have to live
in an ideal world in order to love God and neighbor. Life is messy for everyone.”
If asked, we would probably have arranged the world differently—but without
the full range of human freedom that God entrusted to us.
Psalm 73 can help us remember that God never abandons us and that evildoers have
only an apparent victory. If we allow ourselves to be consumed by a sense of envy
about the injustice of life, we will certainly miss what God wants to give us.
Next Month: Psalm 73:1-3