1-5 No doubt about it! God is good— good to good people, good to the good-hearted. But I nearly missed it, missed seeing his goodness. I was looking the other way, looking up to the people at the top, envying the wicked who have it made, who have nothing to worry about, not a care in the whole wide world.
This is a psalm of Asaph - one of the worship leaders in the court of David. Here he captures what so many of us are caught up in doing from time to time in our lives - comparing, judging, ourselves against others. Paul speaks of the dangers of comparing ourselves with others in the fifth chapter of Galations, reminding us that we are each individual creations. Then he goes on to tell us that we each must take responsibility for our own actions.
This passage today captures the heart of what is going on when we compare ourselves. It is easy to gravitate to looking at others and seeing that they have "more" than we have in a particular area - health, wealth, relationships, education, etc. These are things that we associate with "doing well" or being "well off" as the world values being or doing well. Yet it is not how God values "goodness".
When we are looking anywhere but at God, our vision is clouded by what we are taking in. We don't have a reliable reference point by which to make a judgment about what we are beholding. That is why it is easy to drift into envy when we don't keep God at the center of our focus. It is easy to miss seeing God's goodness in our lives when our eyes are on people and not on God.
Sometimes we are looking at people, seeing their actions, and then becoming very disillusioned or disappointed by those actions. There are no satisfying results in looking too closely at the actions of others. I think that is why Paul reminds us to take responsibility for our own actions - not always comparing ourselves to the actions of others. He knows how incredibly defeating it can be to be caught up in "evaluating" and "interpreting" the actions of others.
Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.
Our psalmist realized the goodness of God in redeeming us - his mission in life was to reflect that goodness to a lost world. When we are so caught up in looking at others, we no longer reflect the God we serve. To see a reflection we need to be turned "toward" that which is being reflected! You have to turn to the mirror to see your reflection. Turn toward others who are turned away from God and you will reflect a "vacant" and "disillusioned" life. Turn toward God and you will reflect his goodness.
What are you reflecting today? Have your eyes been fixed on people, envying their seeming importance, or becoming disillusioned with their faults and failures? If so, it is time to turn to the only mirror that will accurately reflect the image that is reliable, true to plumb, and worthy of being used as a "comparison" - the face of God.