Do not fret because of those who are evil . . . for like the grass they will soon wither . . . Trust in the Lord and do good . . . Take delight in the Lord . . . Commit your way to the Lord . . . Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret — it leads only to evil. . . . The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
Hope in the Lord and keep his way . . . Consider the blameless, observe the upright; a future awaits those who seek peace. . . The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in times of trouble. (Psalm 37:1-39)
It’s a hard thing, having to watch what you know is wrong unfolding, feeling helpless to do anything about it. Whether it’s a personal situation or the state of the world, fretting is a natural reaction that gnaws at our hearts and minds, chewing up our time and energy, and sometimes spitting out our anger.
In this Psalm, I hear God calling me to replace my natural reactions to wrong with a supernatural response. When I have to watch bad things over which I’m powerless to intervene, He gives seven watchwords I can, with His help, put into force.
- Trust in the Lord and do good. Trust calls me to remember that the government is on God’s shoulders, not mine. That sends me straight to the throne room — to which I have continuous access — trusting in the One whose ways are higher than my ways, whose power, wisdom and purposes are infinitely greater than mine. Even though I may not understand everything, I can trust Him. (I don’t understand what keeps a plane in the air, but I still fly. How much more can I trust the God who lifts me up and will never let me crash?)
- Take delight in the Lord. This takes some resolve in the face of distress, when delighted is the last thing I feel. Feelings, though, are a dangerous driver. I want to be led by my Savior, not by my feelings. With that in mind, I can decide to delight in the One who loves me, has forgiven me, and who works all things together for good because I love Him and am called according to His purpose. I can take delight that His Holy Spirit lives in even me. I can take delight that I am never alone; that His comfort, guidance and joy are as close as my breath.
- Commit your way to the Lord. My urge is usually to step up to the pIate. Knowing that, I have to keep stepping back and let Him take the lead. He may send me up to bat, or it might be my turn to sit on the bench. It’s His call. I will also have to resist the urge to go AWOL when I feel like giving up. It is God who will keep my steps firm, and His hand that will hold me when I stumble.
- Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. When I see wrong, struggles, or any kind of grief, I want to do something, and do it right now. Over time, my first impulse has been modified to pray, but too often I don’t follow that with being still long enough to hear God’s response. (Thinking about it now, that’s like going to my doctor with an urgent concern and then leaving before he says a word!) As a do-er, I’m not a good waiter, nor a patient one. My prayer is that the more I trust, delight in, and commit to God, the more I will learn to be still and wait patiently for Him to bring about His purposes, whether or not I see them unfold. It’s not about me being satisfied with the outcome, but Him.
- Refrain from anger. This looks like another tough one. How can I not be angry when I see deliberate evil happening? I don’t believe God wants me to be passive about this. The warning is not to let anger become my driving force. I need to take my anger to Him and leave it there. God will direct my energies in ways that are positive and productive, not punitive. Sustained anger can so easily morph into bitterness, cynicism and negativity — evils of their own.
- Do not fret — it leads only to evil. As with sustained anger, so is constant fretting. I won’t trustfully leave things in God’s hands while I’m continually wringing mine. There’s no room for delight in the Lord while I’m listing off my worries over and over. If I’m committed to stressing about things, I can’t commit my way to Him. It’s impossible to be still and wait patiently when I’m a bundle of agitation. Fretting is like anger — a negative that breeds more negatives.
- Hope in the Lord, consider the blameless, observe the upright. I can resolve to make my focus on what is right sharper and longer than on what is wrong. I can surround myself with His word, His presence through prayer, and allow Him to be my stronghold in times of trouble.
Sovereign Lord, thank You for speaking through Your word into my heart in ways that impact my life. Help me to be strong in You and for You in all that I think, feel and do this day. In Jesus precious name I ask it. Amen.