We'd like to pretend that it doesn't happen. We like the stories where the hero always wins and the bad guy gets just what he deserves.
It doesn't look like that all the time. And, sometimes, those appearances make us question the very foundations of our faith.
"If God is real, how can He let these things happen?" Never mind all the travesties and horrors that fill the world in far off places. If God really loves me like I've been led to believe, why do I go through weeks where I get punished for doing the right thing, and people all around me are freely enjoying their selfishness without consequence?
You can't look at history and say evil never triumphs. Sometimes the wicked prosper for a long, long time. Many times they even die without ever facing the music. Just as often, the man who has committed himself to righteousness and doing right dies in poverty.
But, the Psalmist would smile gently to me, shake his head slowly and answer, "You're missing the point entirely."
"A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked," (Psalm 37:16).
What drives a wicked man to prosperity is a hunger that can never be satisfied. He lives from diversion to diversion in a vain hope of filling the emptiness inside of him. He seeks out pleasure, only to find it hollow. He seeks power, only to create for himself more insecurity. He hoards riches, only to discover deeper fear.
The righteous man, the person who is centered upon his relationship with God, has the one thing that the wicked can never experience. The righteous man knows peace. That doesn't mean that life isn't often difficult. It certainly doesn't mean that he always experiences success (in the way that he was hoping for). It simply means that there is order to his life. There is patience. There is hope. All the things that the wicked is driving harder and harder to achieve, the righteous man has simply by being righteous.
It doesn't help. At least, not in the way that we would like it to. It doesn't make me feel any better, for myself. The people who have made my life more difficult through their selfishness will not be punished in the kind of ways that would make me feel vindicated.
But, it causes me to feel sympathy for them, rather than envy them.
And while I wish, just as strongly, that they would choose to do good rather than evil.
I begin to wish it for their sake and not for my own.