Fret Not

Even though there is a lot to fret about these days, King David tells us not to do that. He says, “fret not because of evildoers” (Psa. 37:1). Good advice, but then what does he know about the unending lies and corruption in the leadership of our country; what does he know about the threats from our many enemies; what does he know about those daily warnings of financial devastation coming on us; what does he know about the violence that is escalating all around us; what does he know about the thousands of terrorists and criminals entering our country across porous borders and doing harm to others; and what does he know about the tsunami of false, heretical teaching that is inundating God’s people in the church?

It is natural and easy to be stressed out (fret) over the situation that we live in. Our culture has willfully walked away from the Lord God and has mockingly rejected His standards and principles. These standards which would make life so much better if followed have been dismissed as archaic, and this has resulted in the grocery list of really bad consequences enumerated by the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:28-32. As he said, increasingly our culture is characterized by a “depraved mind,” violence, arrogance and “all unrighteousness.” There is a lot to fret about, isn’t there?

And while we can just try and not think about all this, King David does give some good advice beyond his exhortation “don’t fret.”  His Holy Spirit inspired counsel in Psalm 37 is well worth looking at. As you read through Psalm 37, there are several significant truths to keep in mind. Let’s think together about David’s helpful counsel.

  1. The solution to fretting is to have an active trust in the Lord. God’s own people are to trust in Him (Ps. 37:3). And for this to be more than a nice religious platitude, it may mean that we need to remind ourselves of the attributes of the Lord our God. It is much easier to trust Him when we remember what He is like. We can avoid being stressed out (“fretting”) by remembering truths about what characterizes the Lord. For instance, God is SOVEREIGN which means He is the supreme One in all the universe. All the forces of men and angels could never dethrone Him or force Him to alter His plans. There are no rivals to the Lord God anywhere. He may choose to allow certain things to take place, but His declared purposes can never be thwarted by any in His creation. His sovereignty includes the truths that He is absolute in His knowledge, power, and freedom to act. As a result, the plans of the wicked will never succeed but God’s plans for His own will certainly come to pass.
    God is OMNISCIENT which means He knows everything that is, as well as everything that is possible. He does not learn new things. As A.W. Tozer once noted, “He knows no thing better than any other thing, but all things equally. He never discovers anything. He is never surprised, never amazed.” (The Knowledge of the Holy,” p. 62). So, God is never caught off guard or surprised by the plans and actions of the wicked. They can never come up with something that He didn’t see coming. He is aware of them and their plans and is prepared to deal with them.
    God is OMNIPOTENT, meaning He is all powerful, and this power does not diminish over time. Therefore, when God declares that He will do something, He has the power to do it, and this includes overcoming the wicked. All the combined forces of the evil doers and the Evil One are simply no match for the Almighty One. As powerful as they might appear, they cannot overpower the all-powerful Lord.
    God is LOVE, which means He always seeks the best for His loved ones. God wants our everlasting welfare and this He will bring to pass. Part of His love is His goodness. It is His nature to be kind, benevolent, and to bless His people. Despite the efforts of the wicked, God will bring about the best for His people in this life but also in the coming age.
    Our God is also TRUTH which means His statements are totally accurate and His promises will never fail. He can be trusted. Also, He is IMMUTABLE which means He does not change. This means He does not mature or decline, and He will be as truthful, loving, powerful tomorrow as He was yesterday. God is HOLY which means He is set apart from all that is evil or unclean, and it requires Him to deal justly with saint and sinner alike.
    So, with a God like this (plus many other attributes) why should we not “trust in the Lord” as David exhorts us to do?
  2. Fretting leads to sinning in the child of God. King David is clear that if we choose to fret, then this will lead to sinning in our lives (Ps. 37:7-9). Our lives will become filled with anger, wrath, and other forms of evil. No doubt that fear, anxiety, and self-centeredness will soon characterize us, and really make us indistinguishable from unbelievers. There are, therefore, some unpleasant consequences to fretting and not trusting the Lord. Trusting beats fretting every time.
  3. Believers are not to live passively but be doing good. But instead of being self-focused, God’s people living in this unpleasant environment are to look for ways to be doing good (Ps. 37:3, 27). Jesus pointed out that our good works bring honor to our Heavenly Father (Matt. 5:16). If we so choose to engage in doing good, undoubtedly the Holy Spirit will open opportunities for us among family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. It is a biblical truth that doing good to others is an antidote to self-centered living. This is a great truth communicated by Jesus when washing the feet of His men (John 13). Doing good will have delightful consequences including refocusing our lives.
  4. Believers are to live according to God’s Word. A well-know truth is repeated by David (Ps. 37:31) when he observes that God’s law is in the heart of the godly person. The Scriptures are the only reality that there is to show us how we are to live in this corrupt and evil world. Other ideas and philosophies come and go as they are proved to be false or inadequate. This is why believers are regularly encouraged to be good students of the Word of God (2 Tim. 2:15). We simply cannot see the right path to walk on without the light of the Bible; without the Scriptures, we simply cannot keep stability in our lives when we see the prosperity and power of wicked people. These kinds of times suggest that we increase our time in God’s authoritative Word. 
  5. The prosperity and success of the wicked is fleeting. Again and again, this Psalm clearly declares that the prosperity of the wicked is temporary, and that they will be punished, will perish, and will be forgotten (e.g. Ps. 37:2, 9, 10, 12-17, 20, 35-36). It is easy for us to feel helpless and powerless before those wicked ones who have temporal authority and great wealth. But we belong to the Almighty One and we can be confident that He will bring all into submission of His righteous standards. And while these wicked ones may have temporary success, they face an eternity that is beyond terrible. Unless they trust in the Lord Jesus, they will experience a never-ending nightmare of emptiness, anguish, separation from anything good, and unimaginable loneliness. Their prosperity will not be remembered.  
  6. The Lord loves, protects and provides for His own. In no uncertain terms, King David states that the future of the righteous is wonderful. While the present may prove difficult, those belonging to the Lord are promised a wonderful “inheritance” (e.g. Ps. 37:9, 11, 18, 29, 34). The eternal future is going to be amazing for God’s people. There is strength and perspective that comes to us when we focus on the future. God has spectacular plans for His children, and it is profitable to remember those. However, in this life, the Lord God also promises to take care of His people and to “deliver” them from the wicked (e.g. Ps. 37:39-40). Undoubtedly, the ways in which the Lord will do this vary greatly. But He has said He will watch over and keep His own.

There really is a lot that one could fret about in our culture today. If we think this world is getting worse and worse, we are right. The Scriptures do tell us that the end of times will bring in terrible levels of evil. And for the believer who refuses to cave in to the norms of the culture, there will be much that is unpleasant. Like Lot who lived in Sodom where “his righteous soul was tormented” daily because of the gross unrighteousness around him, we too are sickened by the lawlessness and sensual conduct of unprincipled men (2 Pet. 2:7-8). In the future, of course, life could become more openly anti-God and the wicked appear to become even more powerful and prosperous. But whatever our situation might be or become, we are told to “trust in the Lord” and not to live stressed out lives. There is great benefit, according to Psalm 37, in trusting the Lord.