June 9, 2017 • Life for Leaders
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.
When my children were young, I loved to go hiking with them in the High Sierra of California. They were energetic hikers for their age and could easily cover a dozen miles in a day. Usually, we hiked along carefully cleared trails. But, once in a while, we’d venture off into the wilderness. At times, these cross-country excursions would lead us to creeks with no bridge or broad boulder fields. In these tricky spots, I’d offer my hand to my children, guiding them and helping them from slipping. (Today, it’s just as likely that they’d offer their support to me. We still love hiking together, but they’re both strong and capable now. The photo is of my son, Nathan, and me on Nathan’s first backpacking trip.)
Psalm 73 pictures God as a strong, heavenly guide: “[Y] ou hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel” (73:23-24). Yet, what makes this image of God’s presence particularly moving is the context in which it comes. Psalm 73 begins with a long complaint about the apparent blessing of the wicked. The psalmist doubts whether it has been worth the effort to keep his heart pure (73:13). Even when he realizes that the wicked will someday experience God’s judgment, the psalm writer has a bitter heart (73:21). He confesses, “I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you” (73:22). But then he adds: “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand” (73:23). Even when the psalmist was being a fool, even when he was questioning God’s judgment and justice, even when his heart was embittered, God did not abandon him. God held his hand as a father or mother holds the hand of a beloved child needing guidance and reassurance.
Psalm 73 offers good news to all of us, especially when we are going through times of doubt and questioning. It reassures us even if our hearts are infected with bitterness. God is present with us, not only when we are trusting him and delighting in his goodness, but also when we aren’t at all sure about his goodness. God does not reject us in times of doubt. Rather, he is present in our lives, both to reassure us and to guide us.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
If you have gone through times of doubt in your life, can you see in retrospect that God was with you, guiding you and caring for you?
How do you experience God holding your right hand?
Do you need God’s guidance and presence in a special way today?
Gracious God, our Heavenly Father, thank you for being with us in all times. Thank you, in particular, for not rejecting us or abandoning us when we struggle to understand you or believe in you. Thank you for continuing to be with us and to hold our right hands. Thank you for guiding us in times when we doubt you or your ways.
Help me, I pray, to trust you more. Help me to be attentive to your presence in my life, even and especially in times of trouble and uncertainty. In these times, may I reach for your hand.
I pray today for those in my life who are going through seasons of doubt right now. I ask that you guide them into all truth. Even more, I ask you to help them recognize your presence with them. May they know that you are holding their hand. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: The workplace consequences of personal failings (Psalm 73)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
At the end of the first line of the second paragraph, “[Y] you” should be “[Y]ou.”