Cross Words: When living for God seems too hard


By Isaiah Pauley



In Psalm 73, the author contemplates whether or not he should be like those who disobey God. After all, he writes, “For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind” (v. 3-5 ESV).

The psalmist finds himself examining the lives of the ungodly. And what an easier life it seems to be. One in which the ways of God are rejected. The desires of the flesh fulfilled. The riches of the world consumed.

In fact, the psalmist continues, “Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence” (v. 12-13 ESV).

Maybe you, like the psalmist, have contemplated whether or not a life for God is worth the sacrifice. I sure have. It’s all-too-common for ungodly people to succeed and live comfortable, happy lives. But when the psalmist looks beyond face value, he finds the reality.

“But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end” (v. 16-17 ESV).

Those who live contrary to the ways of God will perish (v. 27). And the psalmist comes to realize that the temporary pleasures experienced by the ungodly are nothing compared to the eternal pleasure of knowing God. With that being said, let’s take a look at what the psalmist writes in response to God’s goodness.

“Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (v. 23-26 ESV).

You’ve probably heard some of those verses before. But consider the context. The psalmist is coming to terms with the affections of his own heart, surrendering all that he is to God. He recognizes the cost of rejecting the world, but he also recognizes the beauty of knowing the Lord. Nothing beats that.

But this week, I want to focus on verse 26. The psalmist realizes the difficulty involved in obeying God. It’s quite a high calling to love the Lord and serve Him with your life. He rightly realizes that his own strength isn’t enough. And that’s why he famously says, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (v. 26 ESV).

To be honest, that’s the cry of my heart, too.

Like the psalmist, I desire the Lord more than anything this world has to offer. But it’s hard sometimes. Like the psalmist, I realize the emptiness of living a pleasurable life without God. But it’s hard sometimes. Like the psalmist, I know my own weaknesses, doubts, insecurities, and failures. But I also know the source of my strength.

Despite the wreckage of my sinful nature, God is able to hold me in His right hand, guide me in His Word, and keep me until the day of Christ. He is the rock-solid One upon which I stand. He is the faithfulness in my unfaithfulness. He is the strength in my weakness. And the portion He has to offer—Himself—is far greater than anything else.

Maybe you, like me, need encouraged today. God is calling us to a life much too difficult for us to live on our own. We aren’t good enough. We aren’t strong enough. The glory and majesty of God far outweighs our greatest efforts. But through His work in us, our lives can—and must—bring glory to His name.

To end his psalm, he writes, “But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works” (v. 28 ESV).

Indeed, it’s good to be near God. To be right with Him. And that’s only possible through Christ. My flesh will fail. My heart will fail. But God is the strength of my heart. He is my portion forever. Amen.

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By Isaiah Pauley

Isaiah Pauley is passionate about sharing Jesus in a simple way. Follow the journey of this young pastor at www.isaiahpauley.com, on Facebook at Isaiah Pauley Page, or on Instagram @isaiahpauley.

Isaiah Pauley is passionate about sharing Jesus in a simple way. Follow the journey of this young pastor at www.isaiahpauley.com, on Facebook at Isaiah Pauley Page, or on Instagram @isaiahpauley.