Most of us intellectually know this (I hope), but just to offer the reminder: We were made for God’s presence; that’s where we belong. We don’t function properly outside of it. Adam and Eve enjoyed Heaven on Earth (also known as Eden) until they severed their relationship with their Creator and had to be cast out of His presence. From that point on, it would be hard going.
I was struck recently when reading Psalm 73. It begins with Asaph recounting a time where he almost blew it–where his “feet had almost stumbled” and his “steps had nearly slipped” (v2). In the nick-of-time, he caught himself “envious of the boastful” and lusting after “the prosperity of the wicked” (v3). He let his mind wander down that path some more, reasoning with himself about how good they had it. “Behold, these are the ungodly, who are always at ease; they increase in riches” (v12).
He tells of his inner dialog getting so polluted and off track, that he felt “I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence” (v13).
How many of us have been there before… where we find ourselves reeling in our minds, questioning God’s goodness and righteousness? Maybe it’s just me who finds these mental tangents especially ensnaring. But I suspect others do as well.
Verse 17 show the way out. Asaph “went into the sanctuary of God.” He went into God’s presence. When he did that, his thinking became clear again. “Then”, he says, “I understood their end.” God’s presence is the place of revelation.
Asaph’s problem was that he was seeing everything with his natural eyes and reasoning with his carnal mind. He wasn’t standing in faith in the Word of God. In the natural, it can be easy to start thinking those who practice evil have it better off. We sometimes perceive them to have more freedom and more fun–”their eyes bulge with abundance; they have more than heart could wish” Asaph says in verse seven.
But once one steps into God’s presence and shifts to seeing through the eyes of faith, we start to prophetically discern the future of the wicked. “Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors” (v19-20) he says. Asaph’s now operating in a spirit of wisdom and revelation and can promptly confesses his prior foolishness (v21-22).
In verse 15, he highlights another important principle: not proclaiming and declaring the polluted thoughts to the general public. He says “If I had said ‘I will speak thus,’ behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of your children.”
If Asaph is at all like me, he knew full well that his thinking was being corrupted and that the ideas he was wrestling with were not at all his. In fact, he says plainly in verse 21 that he “was vexed in [his] mind.”
Just a week or two ago, an open door in my soul (the soul being my mind, will, imagination and emotions) gave the enemy opportunity to stir within me all sorts of doubts about God. I gave a week attempt at fighting it off that night, but didn’t go nearly all the way in warfare. So, it stuck around and I took the debased mind to work with me.
A few hours in, I was really struggling; my mind was all but paralyzed. I knew exactly what was going on, but was having a terribly hard time summoning the zeal to actually fight back. I solicited prayer from a few close friends and, just as I was about to collapse into an all out panic-attack, I fled the office and decided to go to war for real this time. After an hour of militant prayer and meditation on the Word, I was free and thinking straight again.
I’m not saying you can’t share your faith struggles with a confidant, but if you’re aware your thinking is crazy, it’s best to keep quiet to all but your most respected Christian friends and not openly declare the lies. Doing so can do two things: 1) enhance the lie because you’re not only hearing it in your head but also with your ears; 2) cause others to struggle because the lie is being propagated.
If we want our thinking to be straight and in line with the Word of God, we need to continually abide in God’s presence. After all, man was made for God.