Asaph has put into words what is and has been a struggle for many Christians down through the ages who have gone through difficult times. This frustration is compounded when their struggles occur against the backdrop of the prosperity of the wicked. Trying to understand this paradox seemed like a wearisome task to Asaph—that is, until he went into the sanctuary of God (vv. 16–17). The sanctuary of God—with its ceremonies and rituals and bloody altars—had a sobering and crystallizing effect on Asaph, causing him to see his previous envy and doubt as coming from an embittered soul (v. 21), leading him to think and speak like a brutish and ignorant beast toward God (v. 22).
Question and answer number 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism is as follows: “What is your only comfort in life and death?” Answer:
That I, with body and soul, both in life and death am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all of my sins and delivered me from all of the powers of the Devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; yea that all things must be subservient to my salvation and therefore by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and He makes me sincerely willing and ready henceforth to live unto Him.
I begin with this all-encompassing word of comfort as the backdrop for the very difficult subject of trusting God in difficult times, especially when that difficulty is financial. Contrary to what some might think, Christians are not exempt from the trials and adversities that are part and parcel of living in a fallen world. So I would like to begin with three overarching extractions from the answer to question 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism: (1) We belong to Christ, both body and soul, which means that His love and care for us are for both body and soul; (2) the blood of Christ has satisfied for all our sins, and therefore, we cannot reason that our hardship is punishment for sin; (3) we are delivered from the powers of the devil, which means that tough times are not ultimately dispensed by the hand of Satan. He will use our tough times as opportunities to entice us to not trust God or to make us think that He has forsaken us. But as Paul says in Colossians 1:13, “[God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” Therefore, all that occurs in a Christian’s life is by the will of God and ultimately works for the good of the believer. Romans 8:28 declares, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
This does not mean that only good things happen—far from it. The catechism and the Scriptures teach that God’s saving purposes for the elect can never be frustrated by anything they experience. Romans 5:3–5 puts it this way:
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Consequently, we are enabled to serve and trust God in all seasons and circumstances.
The rationale of the catechism is that faith in the sufficiency of the person and work of Christ and the sovereignty of God attaches us to a reality that transcends our temporal experience and circumstances. We do not diminish the importance of our physical bodies in their present state. After all, the Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 12:1 that we are to “present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice . . . , which is [our] spiritual worship.” But in 2 Corinthians 4, Paul points us to the transcendent realities to which our faith in Christ attaches us:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (vv. 16–18)
Critics of the Christian faith, as well as those who adhere to various forms of the prosperity gospel, would take Paul’s words as espousing a “pie in the sky” religion. Be that as it may, our faith attaches us to a reality that is beyond our present experiences in this fallen world. Embracing the paradox that the Apostle presents does not mean that Christians go through tough times stoically and unperturbed. The words of Asaph in Psalm 73 come to mind.