Do you ever feel like life is not fair? Does it ever bother you that people who seem to love the Lord and desire good struggle to make it through life while those who oppose the things of God at times seem to flourish? Does it bother you that the cultural influence of the faith in America seems to be waning?
In Scripture, the problem of justice is a common theme. Often, especially in the Old Testament, we will read very honest poetry decrying the fact that people who hate God seem to succeed while those who follow the ways of the Lord seem to struggle. Consider, of course, that the book of Job is all about bad things happening to a pretty good guy while the book of Ecclesiastes is all about seemingly bad folks getting all the good stuff. It just does not seem fair.
Psalm 37 is a psalm that appears to deal with this topic. At first glance, however, the psalm feels unrealistic. David here writes about how God will bless the righteous and how the wicked do not succeed. He writes about how the Lord will never leave the righteous to beg for bread. But, is what David says really true? Do the righteous never struggle to get by? Do the godly never hunger? Are the wicked always doomed to failure without success in this life? Something feels wrong.
I think, however, if we give Psalm 37 some more realistic thought, we will grasp that the author is not only speaking of life in the here and now. He is hinting to us about the ultimate destiny faced by the righteous and the wicked.
35 I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,
spreading himself like a green laurel tree.
36 But he passed away, and behold, he was no more;
though I sought him, he could not be found.
37 Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
for there is a future for the man of peace.
38 But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
the future of the wicked shall be cut off.
Note how the language of this psalm, as it draws near its close, is not all this-worldly. O, there was a man who was wicked and successful. He spread his branches wide like a big tree. But, that man, like all humans, was cut down. If you seek him in a hundred years, he does not stand. The grave is his future. And, in the grave, the judgment of God will set all things right.
Similarly, the Lord has a future for the righteous man. The one who loves the Lord has something ahead of him that is far better than what he faces in this life. There is a genuine reward of life eternal for the person under the grace of God.
I would argue that the only real way to understand a psalm like Psalm 37, the only real way to handle the problem of the seeming unfairness of life, is to view it with an eternal mindset. In Colossians 3, the apostle Paul reminds the Colossian church of our need for a forever mindset.
Colossians 3:1-4 – 1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
The way that we handle the injustice of this life and avoid losing heart is to remember that God is always going to rightly judge. He will always do rightly. He will not fail to properly care for those who have surrendered to his will, even if those folks have struggled mightily in their earthly lives. Christians face hardships. Christians face poverty. Christians face persecution and death. Nobody would say that such things look like success in this life. But, Christians also face a glorious eternity of great joy, perfect peace, sweet happiness, and eternal reward. The reward for the Christian is something that outweighs all the sorrow, all the hardship, and all the pain that this life can throw at us.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 – 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 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.
So, as David wrote in Psalm 37, we can believe. God will not ultimately leave his children to struggle. God will not forever leave us to hurt. The Lord has a plan that lasts forever, and in that plan, he will judge and he will reward according to his righteousness and grace. And all who are under his grace, a grace that comes to us through faith in Christ, we have confidence that the Lord will eternally do right and will eternally set all things right.