From Woe to Whoa!

How to See Your Situation Differently

A Study of Psalm 73

Introduction: Nick Vujicic was born without arms and legs. As a young person he understandably struggled with depression and loneliness, but he placed his faith in Jesus has developed an amazing ministry. Someone recently wrote Nick saying, “I’m a follower of God… but I feel empty on the inside and dealing with depression and anxiety.” Nick suggested she read Psalm 73 aloud every day for a month. He said it was one of his three favorite Psalms. He felt it would help her see her situation differently. He’s right. Psalm 73 was composed by a man who was frustrated. He seems to have been physically unwell and perhaps struggling financially. This Psalm shows how he progressed from real frustration, through re-focusing, to renewed faith. The Psalmist begins with woe, and he ends with whoa! Notice the beginning, middle, and ending of this Psalm:

  • But as for me, my feet had almost slipped – verse 2
  • …till I entered the sanctuary of God – verse 17
  • But as for me, it is good to be near God – verse 28


1. But As For Me, My Feet Had Almost Slipped (Verses 1-16)

Psalm 73 was written by Asaph, who began verse 1 with a theological statement:

 Verse 1: Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.

 He knew that in his mind, but he was having trouble feeling it in his heart:

 Verses 2-3: But as for me, my feel had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

 He couldn’t figure why society was dominated by the wrong people. Those with the worst values were getting the best deal.

 Verses 4-7: They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence….

 Asaph was jealous. Those he disliked seemed to have enough money, and their evil imaginations had no limit. They could bring their imaginations to life, like the people of Noah’s day, when “Every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). What a picture of our day!

 Verses 8-12: The scoff, and speak with malice…. Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. They say, “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?” This is what the wicked are like—always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.

 The Psalmist wondered if it’s worthwhile to be a God-worshipper. Until now, he’d devoted his life to loving and obeying God. But he had borne a lot of struggles, and the ungodly seemed better off than him.

 Verse 13: Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.

 Asaph was a worship leader in Israel and he couldn’t express his doubts without endangering the faith of others:

 Verse 15: If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed Your children.

 But now we come to the center of this Psalm and to the very heart of this man’s journey. He said:

 2. Till I Entered the Sanctuary of God (Verse 17)

Verse 16: When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply, till I entered the sanctuary of God, then I understood….

 The word “sanctuary” is a word indicating holiness. It’s akin to our words “sanctify” and “saint.” In this case, it refers to a place where God manifests His holy presence, such as the Temple. Asaph went to the temple and spent time in God’s presence, praying and meditating and searching the Scripture, and his vision had refocused.

The lesson here is enormous. Anytime you are unduly frustrated with any situation—any situation whatsoever—you have to come into God’s presence and analyze it in prayer and with an open Bible before you. You have to reason through it spiritually. You have to sort it out biblically. You have to begin to see it with a different attitude and from a different altitude.

3. But As For Me, The Nearness of God is My Good (Verses 18-28)

Verses 18-28 describes how Asaph felt after his visit to the sanctuary. He caught sight of the brevity of life. He realized that all these apparently successful people were gaining the world but losing their souls. They were not to be envied but pitied.

The Apollo 8 mission, which sent three men into lunar orbit for the first time, began with three astronauts strapped into a small spacecraft 36 stories in the air, awaiting the final moments of countdown. They were sitting atop the most powerful machine ever built—the Saturn V rocket, which would generate the energy of a small atomic bomb. As the moment of the launch drew near, one of the astronauts looked out the window and spotted a mud dauber wasp building a nest outside on the edge of the spacecraft. Back and forth the insect moved, grabbing mud and adding to his new home. The astronaut thought to himself, “You’re in for a surprise.”

The people of this world, with all their ambitions and anger, are like mud daubers grabbing their mud and building the lives, but they’re in for a surprise, because Jesus Christ is coming for His people and to launch His kingdom.

Verses 18-20: Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! They are like a dream when one awakes….

In the next verse Asaph realized how foolish his earlier thoughts and words were.

Verse 21-22: When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before You.

Now we come to the best part of the Psalm, as the writer began counting his blessings and appropriating the benefits that come from walking with God.

Verse 23: Yet I am always with you; You hold me by my right hand.

One writer called this the “golden thread” of God’s presence that weaves its way throughout all our days in ways that are mysterious and yet easy to see. When you follow Christ, the tapestry of life is accented with a bright, broad golden thread of mercy and love and grace.

Verse 24: You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory.

This is one of the Bible’s great verses about divine guidance. When we prayerfully think through our frustrations in God’s presence with an open Bible before us, we’re more likely to make the right decisions. His counsel will guide us through life, and afterward we have a glorious future.

Verse 25: Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

Nothing on earth can compare to walking with God. That’s why the Bible says, “Love not the world nor anything in the world, for all that is the world—the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world, and the world is passing away and the lusts thereof; but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

Verse 26: My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

We may not always have good physical health in this life; we get sick. But God never gets sick, and He is the strength of our heart and our portion forever.

Verse 27: Those who are far from You will perish; You will destroy all who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, it is good to be near God.

The nearness of our God is our good. We underestimate how God loves us and wants to be with us. For some reason, He longs for our fellowship. When God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden, the Bible says He would come down and walk with them in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). When they sinned against Him, He immediately put into place a plan of redemption to restore them to Himself.

He called a man named Abraham to spearhead this program of redemption, and Abraham was called “A friend of God” (James 2:23).

When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, he built a tabernacle and the glorious manifested clouds of God’s presence came down and dwelled among the Israelites as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. God came down and dwelled among His people (Exodus 40:34-38).

When Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem, the same thing happened (2 Chronicles 7:1-2).

The prophet Isaiah said, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

When Jesus came, He was given the name “Immanuel,” which means, “God With Us” (Matthew 1:23). He told the disciples, I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3 NKJV). Jesus wants us to be where He is; He wants to be with us.

Philippians 4 says, “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:5-6).

At the end of the Bible, we learn that the great culminating object of all of redemption is for us to be with the Lord and to enjoy Him forever. Revelation 21 says: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God himself will be with them and be their God’” (Revelation 21:2-3).

The normal condition of the human personality is to be in a close, intimate, daily, warm, friendly, happy relationship with God through Jesus Christ. When this is true, we see things clearly. But when we drift away from Him, we see things through a distorted lens or as if we were in a fog.

Verse 28: I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all Your deeds. He ends with a determination to share God’s deeds with everyone who will listen. He wants to spread the word while he still can.

Conclusion: The French mystic, Francois Fenelon, put it this way:

“Tell [God] all that is in your heart, as one unloads one’s heart to a dear friend of all that gives it plan or pleasure.  Tell Him your troubles, that He may comfort you; tell Him your joys, that He may sober them; tell Him your longings, that He may purify them; tell Him your mislikings, that He may help you to conquer them; talk to Him for your temptations, that He may shield you from them; show Him all the wounds of your heart, that He may heal you… Blessed are they who attain to such familiar, unreserved [conversation] with God.”