Have you ever asked yourself,”What does she see in him?” or “What does he see in her?” There are some couples that just don’t seem to make any sense, particularly to outside observers.
The other night at Starbucks while waiting for youth-group to end, this attractive young woman walked in and stood at the counter. She was very well-dressed and put-together, and could’ve easily graced the cover of a magazine. While she was waiting, a young man walked in and stood next to her: grungy/hipster clothes, unkempt hair stuffed under a beanie, and scraggly facial hair. Needless to say, they couldn’t have been more opposite if they tried, yet it was quite obvious they were together. As for their interaction, he didn’t seem very keen on manners or treating her gentlemanly, at least not for the brief amount of time they were there. After they left, I was more amused by the unlikely pairing than anything else. I chalked most of it up to youth and such, but still…
Maybe it’s that whole peculiar thing about “opposites attracting” and/or that ever mysterious physical “chemistry”. Some couples clearly belong together while others — like this particular one — just don’t make any sense at all. However, it wasn’t merely the apparent mismatch that stuck with me as much as how he seemed to treat her. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but don’t most women like men who behave like, well, gentlemen — you know, with basic manners and everything? Sheesh — maybe I’m more out of touch than I thought!
One benefit of not dating for awhile is that it’s given me a lot of time to think about the subject without being directly involved in it. Something about dating that used to frustrate me is the fickleness or even the notion of injustice when it comes to some relationships, such as when I see decent people choosing to stay in bad ones or allowing themselves to be used or misused by someone who seems rather selfish and self-centered. Perhaps what many people consider to be “love” really is blind much of the time. Maybe we can be so focused by what’s missing in our own lives or what we want from that relationship that we’re blind to reality, that we cannot see what seems so obvious to everyone else. Maybe we’re so prone to make idols out of just about anything we desire, including relationships with other people that aren’t healthy, much less faithful or faith-filled.
As a man who is committed to living purely before marriage, it sometimes irks me when I see people enjoying and prospering in their sin with no apparent consequences, while others who are living faithfully while single are ignored, spurned, or even mocked. There are times when I feel very lonely and start to question these personal commitments. After all, why live purely when it means missing out on the “good life” and all the fun that seems so predominant in the secular singles’ scene? Why not loosen up and indulge the flesh a little and go live it up as an unattached single adult? Why deny myself when I don’t need to (at least by the world’s standards)? Why not give in to instant gratification and eat, drink, and be merry? After all, everyone else is doing it, right?
Along with Psalm 42, another psalm that has become near and dear to me is Psalm 73. This one hit me right between the eyes when I read Chip Ingram’s book “Finding God When You Need Him the Most” as my marriage was ending. In his book, Chip told the story about how he was dating this beautiful girl back in college and had determined to be pure before her and God. Anyway, it was going well until one day they broke up and immediately afterwards she began dating this loud-mouthed womanizer on his basketball team — essentially his complete opposite. Here he was doing his best to live by God’s ways and be upright with this girl and she goes after someone who won’t treat her right nor respectfully (nor faithfully). All his efforts to remain chaste and faithful — doing it God’s way — seemed to be in vain! Not only was he rejected by the girl he had fallen in love with, but he was also mocked by her and her new boyfriend. But then God led him to Psalm 73 and Chip finally began to see the Big Picture.
1 Truly God is good to Israel,
To such as are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;
My steps had nearly slipped.
3 For I was envious of the boastful,
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 For there are no pangs in their death,
But their strength is firm.
5 They are not in trouble as other men,
Nor are they plagued like other men.
6 Therefore pride serves as their necklace;
Violence covers them like a garment.
7 Their eyes bulge with abundance;
They have more than heart could wish.
8 They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression;
They speak loftily.
9 They set their mouth against the heavens,
And their tongue walks through the earth.
10 Therefore his people return here,
And waters of a full cup are drained by them.
11 And they say, “How does God know?
And is there knowledge in the Most High?”
12 Behold, these are the ungodly,
Who are always at ease;
They increase in riches.
13 Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain,
And washed my hands in innocence.
14 For all day long I have been plagued,
And chastened every morning.
15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
Behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children.
16 When I thought how to understand this,
It was too painful for me—
17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God;
Then I understood their end.
18 Surely You set them in slippery places;
You cast them down to destruction.
19 Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment!
They are utterly consumed with terrors.
20 As a dream when one awakes,
So, Lord, when You awake,
You shall despise their image.
21 Thus my heart was grieved,
And I was vexed in my mind.
22 I was so foolish and ignorant;
I was like a beast before You.
23 Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand.
24 You will guide me with Your counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
26 My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27 For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish;
You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry.
28 But it is good for me to draw near to God;
I have put my trust in the Lord GOD,
That I may declare all Your works.
My biggest observation about Psalm 73 is that our focus often determines our perspective, which we then interpret as reality. The psalmist initially ping-pongs back and forth between focusing on himself and the wicked that he’s rather envious of, and consequently makes himself more and more miserable and frustrated. It’s only after he humbles himself before God and starts to view things from His perspective does he finally begin to see clearly. When he steps back and catches just a glimpse of how God sees things — the way things truly are — only then does he realize that keeping to the narrow path is the only real choice. The narrow, winding path leads to life, while the broad, straight road leads to death (Matthew 7:13-14).
While it may seem that injustice and the “prospering of the wicked” (or even the “not-so wicked”) is prevailing in this present world, Psalm 73 assures us that it’s only for a time. God is not mocked and everyone — each one of us without exception — will reap what we have sown. Those who sow to the flesh and spurn God and His ways will reap what they sow, while those who live faithfully and blamelessly before Him will reap His rewards (Galatians 6:7,8). And those rewards aren’t just for Eternity, but often here in the present time, as well as later on.
When we get discouraged over how everything seems unfair and that God doesn’t seem to care (much less doing anything about it), maybe we only need to mimic the psalmist and turn our focus from the injustice and the situation and back to God. When we leave our future and the perceived unfairness in His Hands, we leave Him room to work without our interference. And where is He working the most? Inside us — down in those deep, dark places we’re often completely blind to, usually because our focus is so misplaced.
Living faithfully and blamelessly is NEVER futile — with or without the promise of a reward from God. It’s been said that clean-living is its own reward, and there’s a lot of truth to that. And while clean-living may seem prudish and boring in our hyper-sexualized culture today, be patient and watch what happens over time. Everyone reaps whatever they have sown, but it’s always later and much more abundantly. No one ever knows exactly when, where, or how we will reap the consequences of our decisions, so we should be very careful about what (and how) we sow. We are free to decide many things, but are usually not free to choose the consequences of those decisions.
For those of us who entrust ourselves and our future to God, who choose to live faithfully and follow hard after Him, there really is only one real choice: Him or not Him, His ways or not His ways. God desires for us to be faithful to Him regardless of our marital status, whether we’re single, engaged, married, divorced, or widowed. Yes, the narrow path may often hurt and earn us pain, scorn, and suffering in the short-term; however, we will not be disappointed later on in this life with those decisions, not to mention in the life to come!
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” — Romans 12:1-2