By Eugene Guzon, Superintendent of Asia
Life as we know it is changing. Along with many natural disasters and political turmoil, the prolonged COVID-19 situation has made people’s situations even more challenging and uncertain. We do not need to look far to see pain, hardship and loss, which has perhaps hit home for you as well. I recently experienced this in a personal way when I lost my mom because her heart and lungs failed due to pneumonia. It made this year an unforgettable one for me.
Regardless of where you are, it is likely that you have your share of heartbreak. It could be an illness experienced by you or a loved one. It could be a lost job or a business failure. It could be broken relationships or family conflicts. Or it could simply be a sense of deep frustration and helplessness as you see society going through a seemingly irreversible turn to ruin. In the face of these, it is natural to become fearful, discouraged and depressed. Our first tendency is to panic and look inward – to our own strength, knowledge, financial ability, our own power and connections. As believers, we know that doesn’t work. We need to follow the example of the faith heroes in the Old Testament and the disciples and early church of the New Testament and look outside of ourselves and to the one real solution. Note what the psalmist said:
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)
This psalm is attributed to Asaph, one of the officials and a worship leader during the time of King David and King Solomon. Asaph was a godly man who saw the brokenness of the world and a society living as if there was no God. He saw believers struggle while those who disregarded God lived in apparent prosperity. He doubted and he wrestled at times with his faith. Asaph tried to serve God, but there were moments when he also found it hard to understand his afflictions. In many ways we can relate with Asaph’s challenges, can’t we?
In Psalm 73:26, we see how Asaph came to encounter God and how God turned his protest into praise. What encouragement can be found in this psalm?
My flesh and heart may fail
The word flesh here pertains to our bodies, but it also figuratively means our physical power and physical authority. One moment, we find ourselves strong, healthy, and in the prime of our lives. The next moment, we find ourselves sick, aging, growing weaker as the years go by. It can happen gradually, but it can also happen quickly. With a single accident or diagnosis, our health can take a turn for the worse. Even in the context of these last two years, we are reminded of how fleeting life is. We can try to keep our bodies strong and fit, and we may be healthy now, but the reality is we will not always be strong.
The verse also says that our hearts may fail. This doesn’t just pertain to our physical hearts, but also refers to our will, our feelings, and our emotions. Here we see an acknowledgment that in this life, we will come face to face with heartbreak, discouragement, and fear. Our journeys will include valleys as well as mountaintop experiences.
God is the strength of my heart
This is our great encouragement. Our own strength may fail, but even when all else is lost, God holds firm. He is our strength, our anchor, our sustainer. When we feel our strength is failing, when we get overwhelmed and we lose heart, he is the one who keeps us going.
It is interesting that the psalmist did not say “God is the strength of my body.” Of course, he is the source of strength, and he is Jehovah Rapha, our healer. Fifteen years ago, I had a bout with colon cancer and thought I would be gone in a few months. But in his mercy, God gave me new life and allowed me to survive that ordeal. Other things he has not healed, and all of us know times God has healed and times he has withheld immediate intervention.
We trust that God always knows the better way, the better time, and he allows suffering to visit us for a better and bigger reason. Our assurance is that no matter what happens to us, God will give us the strength and the courage to endure.
God is my portion forever
The word portion is often used to refer to someone’s wealth or inheritance, which can come and go quickly. God, however, is our eternal portion. In Jesus, God has given us an eternal inheritance. We have been adopted and brought into a relationship where we experience his grace, his forgiveness, and his life.
Like Asaph, as we continue to look to God, we will experience a change in perspective about who God is and who we are in him. We believe and cling to the priceless gift of salvation, of a glorious body at the resurrection, and of communion with the Lord and with all the saints forever. Paul said this to the believers in Corinth:
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17)
As we walk forward in faith, we will experience overwhelming pressures in this life. Let us not grow weary, but fix our sights on God, cling to his promises, and trust that what we have in him is far greater than anything else we will encounter in this physical world.