Scripture: Psalm 73
Key verses: (21-23) “When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was stupid and ignorant; I was like a brute beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.”
Reflection: John Calvin once noted that the Psalms reveal to us the “anatomy of all parts of the soul.” If you want a view into the complexity of what it means to be human, and more specifically, to be a human in relationship with God, then the psalms are for you. Some of them are songs of praise and thanksgiving, which we might expect from holy scripture. Others are prayers for help. Nearly a third of them, though, are songs of lament, which lay bare the pain, anger, frustration, and ultimately, hope of their writers.
I like knowing that an authentic picture of human life is enfolded in the pages of scripture, because it reminds me that God wants to be in relationship with us even when things are messy, or we are mad at God, or we are immature or even bitter about our circumstances. Read Psalm 73 to see what I mean. In it, the psalmist complains about people around him who seem to have it all, but who do not deserve it. It seems to him others have it easy even though they’re not devout, while he tries to follow God and is suffering (he doesn’t specify how).
And then, he says, “nevertheless.” Nevertheless, I am with you, God, and you hold my hand. Even when I feel all these things, even when I say them aloud, even when I have acted like a petulant child who is being led away from the playground, I am with you, and you are with me. You have not left me. You will not leave me.
We tend to be “therefore” people. Therefore is the adverb for reciprocity (You have done good things for me, therefore I will be good to you). But God prefers “nevertheless” – and isn’t THAT good news!? We have wandered from God. Nevertheless, God has sought us out. We have complained and been bitter and petty. Nevertheless, God has remained loyal. We have stomped our feet and thrown a fit. Nevertheless, God takes us by the hand.
Everything depends on God’s nevertheless. I wonder – when have you experienced it? When have you lived it out in your own relationships?
Prayer: You are more patient with me than I deserve, O God, and that changes everything. Give me the courage to be honest in my prayers, so that I might be drawn closer to you, the God who takes my hand anyway. Amen.
Author: Anna Dickson
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].