She was excited because she was taking her husband to his surprise birthday party and he was clueless. He was irritated because he was expecting a night out with his wife, but now they had to swing by a friend’s house, which was out of the way, to pick up something she said she left there. They had two very different perspectives on this errand, though their perspectives eventually aligned.
In a similar way, Scripture helps us see past the dark times to the coming end-of-days party. Or to put it more accurately, the Spirit swoops in on our earth-bound existence and takes us into the triune God, from whose vantage point all things look very different. Everything changes once our vision is aligned with the Lord’s.
Here are two places Scripture helps us do that.
Ecclesiastes aims to extinguish any remaining earthly optimism. The Preacher chooses to look at life “under the sun”—earth-bound, with God seeming far away—and he won’t let us go. Yes, there are moments of eat, drink and be merry, and there are a few quiet moments with good friends when things seem to be just right, but those moments certainly don’t last. Not yet, says the Preacher, not yet. Don’t turn from this vantage point quite yet. Only occasionally does he give us glimpses of life lived from the vantage point of the fear of the Lord, but he does take us there. His purpose is to have us be almost snared by the futility of life so that the fear of the Lord—that simple trust that the faithful God is in control—becomes irresistible.
Psalm 73 follows the pattern of Ecclesiastes: look at life without the aid of the Spirit, then be brought into God’s sanctuary and look again. The psalmist’s first look is so futile that he went from confusion to envy to “brutish and ignorant,” like a beast. And all this was happening when he was trying his best to do right. Then, when he was brought into the sanctuary of God—the very personal center of the entire universe—everything changed.
How did he do that? That is the question for all of us. We at least know this. From his very new and different perspective, the psalmist knew that the arrogant and wicked would be judged. That helped. But it was the even more personal realities that made the end of his psalm so unlike the beginning. The promise-keeping God held his hand, guided him in wisdom, and had already made a home for him. The psalmist responded, “there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.…It is good to be near God.”
God is pleased to give more grace as we seek him and ask for more, so we persist in the psalmist’s course. On the days when we feel locked in “under the sun,” we pray that the Spirit would take us into the heavens (e.g., Col. 3:3-4), assure us that Jesus will never let go of our hand, give us eyes to see that Christ is better than everything else, and enlarge our faith so we can speak to others about life from the perspective of the sanctuary.