When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered… Psalm 73:21 (NIV)
These verses open up what was going on in Asaph’s heart before he came to the sanctuary. These things were hidden from Asaph himself. He didn’t understand what was going on. But when God met with him, the light went on. He saw clearly and so he was able to make this confession.
There are particular sins to which you may be especially prone when you are grieved, upset, or disappointed. When things don’t go your way, the sins of Asaph are crouching at your door. Notice the sins Asaph confesses here, so that you can be on your guard against them, especially at times when your heart is grieved.
It may be that “my heart was grieved” and “my spirit was embittered” are two ways of saying the same thing. That is often the pattern in Hebrew poetry. But you can have a grieved heart without a bitter spirit. So it seems that the first sin Asaph confesses here is a bitter spirit. There were things in Asaph’s life that made no sense, and he became bitter towards God. He also became bitter toward other people as he saw how God was blessing them.
It’s easy to become bitter when your heart is grieved. It can happen far more easily and far more quickly than you might think, and Asaph’s confession reminds us that this can happen to the most godly person. “I was bitter,” he says. “There was a souring of my spirit. I didn’t see that before, but I see it now, and Lord, I need to confess this to you.”
Do you see any traces of a bitter spirit in your own life?